Kayaking the Grande Ronde River
Tucked away in the Blue Mountains, in the extreme northeast corner of Oregon, flows the fast but gentle Grande Ronde River, the perfect place to learn how to read water and paddle your own inflatable kayak. While we also offer a Grande Ronde whitewater rafting and Grande Ronde fly fishing trips, this adventure is designed for people who want to learn how to kayak and run their own kayaking adventure.
Our Grande Ronde kayaking adventure travels some 36 miles through a wilderness of pine-studded canyons, on waters protected as part of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. Towering mountains and formations of volcanic rock from the Columbia Basalt flows make for a dramatic setting.
Every participant on this trip is furnished with an inflatable kayak about 11-feet in length. These are stable and fairly easy to maneuver, making them an ideal platform for learning how to run white water rivers on this kayaking adventure. Each day of adventure we paddle about 10 miles on fast-flowing water, getting instruction from your guides along the way.
We are sure to leave plenty of time to stop and hike to vistas of the Blue Mountains and the canyons of the river. We make camp by the river’s edge each evening. On the kayaking adventure we may see Rocky Mountain big horn sheep, elk, mule deer and coyote. If river levels allow, we’ll spend our third day as a “layover day” and take a longer hike into the mountains, returning to our same camp mid-afternoon.
Unlike other ROW Adventures’ trips, which lean towards the luxury end of service and camping, on this self-support kayaking trip everyone carries their own overnight bag in their kayak and chips in to set up camp. Meals are ROW’s standard five-course camp gourmet fare and participants who wish may learn how to do Dutch oven cooking alongside the guides. Those who choose to do so will learn how to bake salmon with a huckleberry and maple syrup glaze, prepare awesome camp lasagna, cook a variety of cakes and on the final night, prepare a prime rib!
Our adventure guides will also demonstrate packing and rigging techniques for those interested. For those that want to learn the basic skills for organizing a self-support kayaking trip, this is the perfect introduction!
This trip is suitable for paddlers ages 12 and up. The trip starts and ends in Lewiston, Idaho, easily accessible by air or car.
The trip begins the evening before the indicated date with an orientation meeting at a hotel in Lewiston, Idaho. During this meeting any last-minute questions are answered and participants are given a dry bag to pack.
We depart from Lewiston early the next morning and drive about three hours to our put-in point at Minam, Oregon. It’s a dramatic drive through the mountains, including the spectacular Rattlesnake Grade. Once at the river we meet the rest of the ROW Adventures guides who have traveled ahead with the support raft and kayak gear. After a thorough safety briefing we launch our inflatable kayaks onto the waters of the Grande Ronde and start our kayaking adventure. In fact we launch on the Wallowa River and follow it for the first 10 miles to the confluence with the Grande Ronde. A couple of miles past the confluence we make our first night’s camp.
camps are set on large benches of grass and pine trees. Everyone helps get the boats unloaded and camp set up. Our spacious tents are quick and easy. The next learning opportunity is focused on river camp cooking. Anyone who wants to learn more is welcome to join the guides in the kitchen. You can learn how to prepare gourmet camp food using a propane stove and Dutch ovens. At each meal you’ll learn a new trick or two and create some delicious meals. A highlight for many will be learning how to bake in the Dutch ovens. Cakes, cobblers, fresh salmon, lasagna and prime rib are some of the dishes cooked on the trip in Dutch ovens.
The next morning we enjoy breakfast and then break camp for day two of our kayaking adventure. We launch again on the Grande Ronde, which continues as a fast-flowing but gentle river with mild rapids. We pass beneath dramatic basalt columns that jut out from the sloping mountains. With any luck we may see deer, elk or even big horn sheep. The fresh mountain air is fresh and clean. Huge ponderosa pines stud the mountainsides. After a couple hours floating the river we pull over for lunch and you have your choice of helping or just kicking back. We review some paddling techniques prior to setting out for the afternoon.
Water levels determine how long we spend on the river each day. At higher flows the river moves faster, making our miles pass more quickly. We arrive at camp in plenty of time for a hike, game of horseshoes or other activity. Those desiring to learn more about camp cooking will report for duty in the kitchen.
Flows on the river will determine whether our third day is another day floating and kayaking on the Grande Ronde, or a layover day in camp. If it’s a layover day, we’ll have time for an extended hike into the mountains. Or time to catch up on your favorite book under a tree. Layover days are always a popular option! If we float today, we’ll continue downriver another ten or so miles, learning along the way and stopping at any sites of interest.
On our last day of this kayaking adventure we reach the take-out just after lunch, pack up and head back to Lewiston. There’s a farewell dinner and a chance to share thoughts and memories of the last few days together.
Trips are scheduled during the week when few other paddlers are on the water. Non kayakers may be accommodated in a raft. Price includes transportation to/from Lewiston, Idaho (served by Horizon & American West airlines); all rafting and kayaking gear; all camping gear and professional guides.
ROW Inc., doing business as ROW Adventures is proud to be an Equal Opportunity recreation service provider. ROW Inc. operates under special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service in the Umatilla National Forest. All our operations and facilities are operated on a non-discriminatory basis.
Dates & Rates
Self-Support Kayaking, Grande Ronde 4 Days
Departures: June 8, 15, 22, 29
Adult Price: $1095
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FAQ & More
We offer these Grande Ronde kayaking trips a few times in early summer when the river is still flowing well, but past its high water peak. Typically this means our trips run from mid-June to mid-July.
ROW Adventures provides all the camping, rafting and kayaking gear required for the trip. We send you a complete list of personal items you need to bring. For the most part these are things you already own. Example of things you might not own but might want to bring would be wetsuit booties, rain pants and a headlamp.
This trip is suitable for anyone in reasonable shape. You need to be flexible enough to climb in and out of your inflatable kayak. Paddling uses some shoulder and arm muscles you might not use often, but the river does most of the work moving you downstream.
This trip is different from other ROW Adventures’ trips in that guests are expected to set up and take down their own tents. As well, you need to carry your personal gear from your kayak to and from your tent. Other than that, all other participation in camp is optional. If you are not interested in helping in the kitchen, you don’t have to. On the other hand, if you want to learn more about camp cooking, or how to load the boats, we’re happy to teach you.
There is non-stop air service from Salt Lake City as well as regional connections via Portland and Seattle. It’s also easy to drive to Lewiston, with good paved highways coming from all directions.