Owyhee River Kayaking Expeditionary Trip
The Owyhee River is one of the West's best-kept secrets with canyons unique to this continent. Some refer to them as the "Sistine Chapel" of all canyon lands. Rarely visited, and strictly regulated by the Bureau of Land Management, ROW Adventures is one of the very few outfitters licensed and permitted to run the entire Owyhee River (bridging the states of Nevada, Idaho and Oregon). We have been running the Owyhee since 1980 and offer inflatable kayaking and pack raft (bring your own) trips on the East Fork and South Fork of the Upper Owyhee. During May and early June, these trips may be combined with other raft trips or kayak trips to make 17-days of kayaking and rafting - making it the longest, most remote river trip in the lower 48 states.
Owyhee River Natural and Cultural History
This Owyhee kayak trip flows through dramatic, multi-colored canyons, reminiscent of places like Bryce and Zion National Parks in southern Utah. Vertical faces of rock, 300 to 1000 feet high, tower above the river. Within the canyon walls mountain juniper grows, as well as sagebrush, willow, hackberry and numerous grasses. Three species of endangered plants are located along the rivers, including the Owyhee River Stickseed, Anderson's buttercup and Inch-High Lupine. In May the desert is in full bloom and dozens of plants are flowering, making a rainbow of color.
There is a great variety of bird life in the canyon. Golden eagles, numerous hawks, falcons, Canada geese, teals, and songbirds are abundant. In all we've spotted over 60 bird species on our trips. We may also see beaver, otter, coyote, deer, muskrat, antelope and desert big horn sheep. Numerous species of reptiles are also present.
Native Americans have lived in this canyon for at least 9000 years. Numerous petroglyphs and other evidence are found along the river's banks. We honor the legacy of the people who came before us.
Recorded history of the region began in 1812 with the first explorations by white men. The name Owyhee evolved out of a scouting expedition led by Donald McKenzie in 1818. Two Hawaiian Islanders accompanying the party disappeared in the Owyhee River area and by the 1830's the river had become known as the "Owyhee," a derivation of the word Hawaii.
In 1979 the U.S. National Park Service recommended a 192-mile segment of the Owyhee River, from the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Idaho, to the Owyhee Reservoir in Oregon, be included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. When this was signed into law, the portion of the river east of the Idaho-Oregon boundary was excluded, due to pressure from local mining and grazing interests. However, after a concerted 10 year collaborative effort, the 2009 Omnibus Public Lands Management Act included the “Owyhee Initiative” that designated over 517,000 acres of Wilderness and over 300 miles of Wild and Scenic River. We are proud to have participated in the effort to win these designations, and ROW Adventures is one of few who are licensed and permitted to operate outfitted trips in this area.
Winner of the 2009 Trip of the Year: North America by Outside magazine!
If you are looking for a world-class expeditionary trip on a remote river that gets you away from crowd and connects you with the natural world in an intimate way, a trip on the Owyhee River, with expert ROW Adventure guides, should be next on your list. Come enjoy this majestic, protected area filled with wildlife and beautiful scenery. This kayaking trip offers one of the most remote, awesome wilderness kayak vacations in the entire nation.
Images & Videos
The Upper Owyhee, mostly contained in the states of Nevada and Idaho, offers one of the most remote, awesome wilderness river trips in the entire North American Continent. There are two different sections of the upper river that we float. Both trips are limited to ten guests and five guides.
Upper Owyhee, East Fork
- 7 Days
- 73 Miles
The put-in is around 5000' above sea level near the Duck Valley Indian Reservation and our take-out is usually at the Three Forks launch site. Due to the numerous rapids and narrow, rocky courses, we use a small 13' raft to carry the community camp equipment, and each person paddles their own inflatable kayak. If you prefer to ride in a guided raft, let us know. There are at least two portages on this section, and we travel light in order to minimize the delay and hard work these present. Due to the extreme remoteness and inaccessibility of the area, wildlife sightings are best on this part of the river. This canyon is as remote as anyplace on the North American continent.
Upper Owyhee, South Fork
- 7 Days
- 68 Miles
We put-in a few miles from the Nevada / Idaho border and float downstream to Three Forks. Because the river flows in a fairly broad canyon the first few days, all the rapids are runnable. On the fourth day, the South Fork meets the East Fork which means that the last three days of this trip are the same as the last three days of the East Fork trip. There is at least one portage below the confluence of the two forks at a rapid called Cable which is a steep drop with a difficult maneuver. The last miles of the trip are in a deep spectacular canyon with few rapids.
Dates & Rates
Upper Owyhee-East Fork
- Departures: By request
- Adult Price: $2690
Upper Owyhee-South Fork
- Departures: By request
- Adult Price: $6390
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 Vale Resource Area of the Bureau of Land Management. All our operations and facilities are operated on a non-discriminatory basis.
FAQ & More
Our Owyhee River Kayaking Trips generally run from April to late May, with the best water levels and weather in May. Since spring is a time when weather systems tend to be less stable than in the summer, temperature ranges can be extreme, with the possibility of snow flurries and a 95-degree sun in the same day. Our detailed packing list will tell you what you need to bring to be properly prepared. Because of the unpredictable weather and water levels, we ask that everyone who signs up for these trips be flexible and come prepared for all kinds of weather. Both high and low water can happen. In low water we can usually run, but it might require running lighter kayaks with fewer amenities. In May, on Owyhee River trips, we ask that you be willing to transfer to the Snake River in Hells Canyon should the need arise. Our goal is always to raft the Owyhee River you can bet we'll do everything in our power to run the trip as scheduled. If we do have to change, it won't change your logistics any, since we will still meet and end in Boise.
All trips meet the evening before the launch date. Trips on the Upper Owyhee we meet in Boise, Idaho.
Duckies are your own inflatable kayaks. Each person or couple will paddle and ride in their own personal duckie. You'll see them on some of the pictures above.