June 29, 2009

John Day River

I have wanted to go for a float on the John Day River for about as long as I can remember. This past winter when my friends John and Rosalee suggested we give it a go I was in. We set some dates for early June and kept our fingers crossed since the river can become de-watered during summer. As it turned out we had an ideal flow.

We thought we'd take the long way from Utah and tour through eastern and central Oregon. We spent the night at a really neat forest service camp, called Yellowpine campground, east of the town of John Day. It is always neat to camp deep in the forest during a hot Utah summer in the desert.

The next morning we continued west up a pass. The thermostat on Anjas car stuck and it began to overheat. Luckily we noticed it in time so it didn't boilover. A few miles at a time, letting the car cool between segments, we made it into John Day where we had the problem fixed. Unfortunately, we wasted most of the day with the car in the repair shop, but with what was left of the day we continued west to explore some of the John Day Fossil Beds. The colors of the hills combined with the way the unsettled sky happened to be made for a very beautiful landscape.

We spent the next night just out of Fossil, Oregon. We woke early and went into town for breakfast at a quaint little local cafe. Then to the boatramp to meet John and Rosalee and to rig our boats. It was a good thing we got there early because it turned into quite the mess of people trying to get stuff rigged and on the water. I was glad we beat the rush.

We all got on the water and proceeded to the scout for Clarno Rapids. I thought the scout trail was way more dangerous than the actual running of the rapid. One slip on most of this trail and you'd go for an exciting slide for life down the scree and into the river. I like scouts because they give an interesting perspective of the surrounding landscape, and the potential cause of what formed the rapids.
Then camped shortly afterward at a nice plain of cedar trees.

The next day we started into the dramatic scenery of Columnar Basalt that makes up the canyon of the John Day River. I was looking forward to this part of the trip the most. It was all I was hoped it'd be.

The camping and hiking was great. We found old jeep trail type roads almost everywhere we got out of the boat so it made for some easy hiking. The numbers of people on the river made for some interesting camping in pretty close proximity, but it was easily dealt with by just communicating with other groups. One of the guide books or pamphlets said the camping wasn't that great on the lower stretch of river, but I found nice camp sites.

Like most most float trips it was plenty of fun to just float downstream and paddle boats.

After we took off the river on our drive I was surprised to see the wind turbines spread across the wheat fields, nearly as far as I could see.


  1. Great trip, Mick. I love your photos. Sure hope we can all run this river again. It was so much fun being with you and Angie.

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