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 kayaking 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.

Natural and Cultural History

This Owyhee kayak trip will flow 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.

Native Americans have lived in this canyon for at least 9000 years. Numerous petroglyphs and other evidence are found along the river's banks. 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. The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 has now included these areas and ROW Adventures is one of few who are licensed and permitted to kayak in this area.

Winner of the 2009 Trip of the Year: North America by Outside magazine!

Our Owyhee River Kayaking trips allow visitors to explore the nation's newest protected Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River. Part of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, The Owyhee Initiative designates over 300 miles of water as Wild and Scenic Rivers and 517,000 acres as Wilderness. This act allowed a handful to keep permits to raft and kayak these sections of the Owyhee River including the East Fork and South Fork.

If you are looking for that next expeditionary trip on a remote river that gets you away from crowd and puts you in your own world, the newly protected 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.

See our other award winning kayaking adventure on the Grande Ronde River in Oregon too! Or, if you are looking for a sea kayaking adventure, go here: Baja Sea Kayaking Adventure.

Images & Videos


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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.

The East Fork. 7 days. 120 miles.

The put-in is around 5000' elevation near the Duck Valley Indian Reservation and will vary with our take-out 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 or couple paddles their own inflatable kayak. 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.

The South Fork. 7 days. 120 miles.

We put-in at a local ranch in Nevada, miles from nowhere and may vary with our take-out being at the Three Forks launch site. The first three days of this trip does not have the tight, rocky, nearly impassable rapids that are found on the East Fork. The South Fork meets the East Fork on the fourth day, so the last three days of this trip are the same as the last three of the East Fork trip. There is at least one portage below the confluence of the two forks. (A portage requires that we carry all gear around the rapids. Sometimes we can let the rafts through on ropes (called "lining,") but this depends on water levels. If we can't line the rafts, we have to carry them as well. Hence the beauty of using lighter inflatable kayaks.

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.

Dates & Rates

Supplementary Information

Upper Owyhee-East Fork
Departures: By request
Adult Price: $2390

Upper Owyhee-South Fork
Departures: By request
Adult Price: $2390


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FAQ & More

When to Go?

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.

Meeting Point?

All trips meet the evening before the launch date. Trips on the Upper Owyhee we meet in Boise, Idaho.

What are duckies?

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.

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