Owyhee River Rafting
The Owyhee River in Idaho and Oregon is one of the most spectacular desert rivers in the United States. A tributary of the Snake River, the Owyhee begins in Nevada and flows north and west through Idaho and Oregon before coming to journey’s end when it flows into the Snake river. The Owyhee travels through one of the least-populated regions in the lower 48 states and its varied landscape and steep canyons make it a favorite destination
For whitewater rafting connoisseurs. Considered the "Sistine Chapel" of western canyon lands, the Owyhee River in Idaho and Oregon is one of the best-kept whitewater rafting secrets.
Few whitewater trips can compare to the scenery, wildlife, and adventure of Idaho and Oregon's Owyhee River. Through millions of years, the Owyhee has carved dramatic multi-colored canyons, reminiscent of Bryce and Zion National Parks in southern Utah. Sheer-walled rock faces, up to 1,000 feet high, tower above the river and captivate guests as they float through these spectacular canyons. The Owyhee River's whitewater is as diverse as the flora and fauna that adorns the remote canyon hillsides.
Depending on the section, the Owyhee River offers everything from an ideal family vacation to an extreme adventure for experienced rafters. Each portion is unique and trips range from four to seven days. The different sections can even be combined into one epic 17-day trip floating through three states!
A kaleidoscope of life thrives in the canyon and you're likely to see multitudes of wildflowers, birds, and reptiles as you raft through the Owyhee's Class II-IV whitewater rapids. You're also likely to see eagles and falcons soaring, beavers, otters, coyote, bighorn sheep, and antelope.
Undammed and free-flowing, the Owyhee is an early-season (April-June) desert river with strictly controlled launches. These incredible desert canyons are rarely visited and offer an array of adventure, scenery and cultural history. Camps are set on white sand beaches among twisted juniper trees and sagebrush. And as your guides prepare the evening's meal, you might soak in a hot spring or hike up a canyon draw. As the evening settles in, sit in awe as the rock pinnacles of the Owyhee River's hillsides become silhouetted against a magical sunset. After dinner, sit around the glowing embers of the campfire and imagine what life was like when Indigenous peoples made this land their home.
Below in the Itinerary section are brief descriptions of each section of the Owyhee. ROW has been on the Owyhee since 1980 and is one of the very few outfitters licensed and permitted to run the entire river (bridging the states of Nevada, Idaho, and Oregon). For nature lovers and white water connoisseurs, a rafting vacation on the Owyhee River is a dream come true.
Images & Videos
The Lower Owyhee River Rafting Trips
- 5 Days
- 50 Miles
This is the most approachable section of the Owyhee as the rapids are easy to moderate in nature and we are able to use our larger 16' rafts and run more of a "normal" rafting trip with the usual amenities that make for very comfortable and cushy camping. Our put-in is near the town of Rome with our take-out at Birch Creek. During the trip we visit several wonderful hot springs and may even camp near one. Camps are set on sand beaches. We see some dramatic geologic formations along the way, some of which are similar to the Dakota badlands. There are plenty of hiking possibilities and plenty of camp time for relaxing, photography, and bird watching. This section is the best choice for those who don't want the tough whitewater of the Middle Section, or the expedition-quality of the Upper sections. Under BLM (Bureau of Land Management) regulations, trips are limited to 16 guests and four guides.
The Middle Owyhee River Rafting Trip
- 4 Days
- 38 Miles
Best-suited for very experienced rafters due to the remoteness and severity of the whitewater, we use extra caution and conservative judgement in running the rapids. Our put-in is at the Three Forks launch site with our take-out at Rome. During the trip we stop to scout several of the rapids. At the rapid called The Widow Maker, we carry our gear around and let our rafts though on ropes, a process requiring 3-5 hours, depending on how many rafts we have. For this reason a true spirit of adventure and willingness to pitch in is required for anyone wishing to go on this trip. On much of the trip the river ﬂows through red-rock canyons with huge monolithic pillars of rock. There are a number of graceful, twisted juniper trees along the river and many interesting hikes.
The Upper Owyhee River Rafting Trips - East Fork
- 7 Days
- 73 Miles
The put-in is around 5000' elevation near the Duck Valley Indian Reservation and our take-out is usually at Three Forks. At very low flows we may take out above Three Forks. 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. (If you prefer to ride in a raft, let us know as this can be accommodated.) 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 Upper Owyhee River Rafting Trips - South Fork
- 7 Days
- 68 Miles
We sometimes put-in at a local ranch in Nevada, miles from nowhere, but more often put-in at the “pipeline crossing” that is 20 miles downstream. The normal take-out is at Three Forks, where this trip ends and trips on the Middle Owyhee begin. The ﬁrst three days of this trip are in a broad river canyon that is quite different than 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. At this point we are in a majestic canyon of near-vertical cliffs. There is at least one portage below the conﬂuence of the East and South forks at Cable rapids. 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. We normally take one small 13’ raft to carry communal equipment and each person paddles their own inflatable kayak. However if you prefer to ride in a raft, let us know as this can be arranged.
Dates & Rates
7-Day - Upper Owyhee - Contact us regarding dates
- Departures: May / Early June by request (1 guide per 2 guests)
- Adult Price: $2690
4-Day -Middle Owyhee – Contact us regarding dates
- Departures: May/Early June by request (1 guide per 2 guests)
- Adult Price: $1680
5-Day - Private Trip Lower Owyhee - Contact us regarding dates
- Dates based on availability from late April to mid-June.
- Private Trip Rate = $18,800
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
Experience & Awards
ROW Adventures is a seven-time National Geographic award-winning company. We haven't only been "operating" since 1979, we've never changed ownership!
Responsible Travel Ethics
We operate following the best in "responsible" or "eco" travel ethics including Leave No Trace camping and many other best practices that are sometimes forgotten about in the world of travel.
Our itinerary is designed to visit many different points of interest, taking advantage of rock art sites, pioneer homesteads, and natural wonders in the river canyon.
Our luxury-style camping includes all camping gear such as tents, sleeping bags and thick, self-inflating mattresses. All rafting gear is also included to make things easy for you.
Guides Like No Others
Your trip is enriched by knowledgeable guides who share the canyon's cultural and natural history. No other company trains guides like we do, and most of our guides are also Certified Interpretive Guides through the National Association for Interpretation.
Our guides are divided into a "guest crew" and a "kitchen crew." While the kitchen crew prepares dinner, our guest crew is available to spend time with you, lead a hike, show you how to cast a fishing line or simply sit in the shade and visit. This is a fundamental distinction between us and others.
Sharing Our Passion
Guides join you at all meals, sharing conversation and laughter at meal times and around the campfire.
Complimentary beer, wine, juice and soda, all in moderate quantities, is provided. We are proud to serve fine local Northwest wines. We always have plenty of ice!
Your Security First
We carry satellite telephones on all trips - for emergency use only.
Our trips support local hotels, on our farewell dinner we eat in a local restaurant, we hire local guides and buy all our trip provisions and food in local communities. This means our trips and the money you pay for them has a significant impact to our local area. Our trips offer an excellent opportunity for our guests to interact with locals, providing a cultural element that allows you to learn more about the American West.
Our Owyhee River Whitewater Rafting 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 rafts 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 and 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 meet in Boise, Idaho. Trips on the Middle or Lower Owyhee meet in Boise for those who fly and Jordan Valley, Oregon for those driving.
The quality of our food reflects the quality of the wilderness environment. We handselect the freshest fruits and vegetables we can find and pack them carefully in huge ice-coolers. Likewise, these coolers carry fresh dairy products and meats. From these ingredients we prepare bountiful, healthy meals. Sustainably harvested wild Alaskan Salmon served with a fresh garden salad; Prime Rib combined with a fresh Chilean salad and Idaho mashed potatoes or made-on-the-river lasagna is a few possible entrees. Big salads of vegetables and fruit add color and variety to every meal. Desserts are made each evening in our Dutch ovens and range from authentic cobbler and pineapple upside-down cake. We serve juice each morning and moderate amounts of bottled wine with dinner. We also provide two beers and two sodas or juices per person per day. There's always plenty of cold water, lemonade mix, tea, coffee and cocoa. You're welcome to bring your own beverages or alcohol as well. We always have plenty of ice to keep your drinks cold.
On these trips we offer smaller 14 ft paddle and oar rafts. In the paddle rafts four to six people paddle while a guide steers. Most people prefer the excitement of paddling but if you prefer you can ride in the oar raft. In the oar rafts, two to three people sit on a bench seat while the guide does all the rowing. On the Upper Owyhee we can add inflatable kayaks to the mix. More more information check out our full Whitewater Craft Guide.
On any river trip, the guides are the most important factor for your safety, enjoyment, and the success of the trip. ROW guides are exceptional people with years of river experience. We maintain a tobacco-free policy and most of our guides have taken interpretation courses from certified instructors. We look for guides who are willing and eager to share, teach, listen, learn, laugh, play, discuss, and, above all, work hard to provide a safe, relaxed and spontaneous adventure. Guides show you the way to a nearby hot spring, give a fly-fishing lesson, or just to sit and visit with the group. Our guides are the main reason many of our guests return to ROW time and time again. (References gladly provided.)
The level of fitness required depends on the river you choose. On ROW's trips lasting three or more days, you have a choice of whitewater craft. Oar-powered rafts are those where the guide rows and you simply relax (or hold on in the rapids) and these require very little effort. Paddle rafts and duckies require more effort as you will have a paddle in your hands and will be paddling during the rapids. You should be reasonably healthy, and must be able to fit into the PFD we provide. (Any person weighing more than 260 pounds, or having a chest size greater than 52" should contact our office before signing up for any trip.) On some of our more challenging rivers where unintentional swimming, long hiking or high elevations are a possibility, a higher level of ﬁtness is advised. Always discuss with our staff if you're unsure what's acceptable for you. If you're still in doubt about your ability to go rafting, or your fitness, check with your doctor before you go. While many trips require little physical fitness, being in good shape will enhance your vacation.
Yes, you will need a fishing liscence if you plan to fish during your Owyhee river rafting trip! For the Middle and Lower Owyhee you'll need Oregon Fishing licenses which you can purchase at the convenience store in Jordan Valley. On the Upper Owyhee you'll need an Idaho license which you can get in Boise. Fishing is for bass and channel catfish and is best done with spinning gear.
Forget those images of leaky tents and camp food out of a can. You’ll be amazed how comfortable camping can be when done the ROW way. On trips with 13 or more guests, we use a large 22-foot cargo raft to carry the bulk of the camping gear, food, etc. This allows our smaller oar-powered rafts to be lighter and more maneuverable.
The cargo raft, along with two- support crew, arrives at camp ahead of the group and gets the kitchen set up including dining tables and chairs. The crew also sets up the spacious two-person tents that ROW provides. When we arrive at camp all you have to do is carry your personal gear (stored in a ROW-provided easy-to-use waterproof bag) to the tent of your choice and roll out your sleeping bag, flannel liner, and thick, self-inflating foam sleeping pad (also provided by ROW). This gives you an extra half-hour of time for doing something you'd enjoy rather than setting up a tent. (Note: In rare circumstances, we may have a trip with less than 13 guests. In this case, due to economic and logistical reasons, we may not run our cargo raft. On these smaller trips guests and gear travel together down the river. Our guides are still happy to set up your tent if you like or you may enjoy doing it yourself.)
ROW is firmly committed to the responsible stewardship of the rivers we run and the earth at large. In our office, at our warehouses, and on the river, we abide by the 3 R's - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. On the river, we take every possible precaution to minimize our impact. Everything we carry in, we carry out. We build our fires in metal fire pans and carry out the ashes.
ROW makes this easy! Just bring the clothes you want to wear at camp and on the river and a few person items, we'll take care of the rest! Once you make a reservation ROW will send you a complete packing list. ROW provides the camping equipment, food, and beverages.
On many of our summer trips, frequent swimming leaves you feeling clean. For those who want to soap up, we always do so well above the river's high water line (not even "bio-degradable" soap goes in the river). We also take sun-showers on many of our trips and the hot water is great for shampooing and taking a sponge bath. Buckets of river water help with the process.
At each camp we set up a special, private tent with a portable toilet inside, which works just like yours at home, without the flush. This is available from the time we get to camp until we leave the next morning. The views from our toilet locations are simply inspiring. Nearby we set up a handwashing system. During the day, liquid waste goes in the river by simply wading into the water or going for a swim. A day-use toilet is available too for solid waste. If you have any other questions or concerns please call our adventure consultants.
For feminine hygiene, come prepared with some small zip-lock bags. These are useful for disposal during the day while on the river and can be put into our trash containers at camp. Along with our toilet supplies, ROW will have extra pads and tampons available. Using portable toilets allows us to carry out all human waste.
Yes! Everyone on a ROW trip wears a Coast Guard-approved PFD (personal flotation device). These are designed to keep you afloat in the event that you find yourself in the river. Many non-swimmers go on rafting trips and they have a great time. It is more important that you are not afraid of the water. Non-swimmers should not go on class IV+ or class V trips. Please call us if you have any concerns about this.
Wilderness travel and whitewater rafting have inherent risks and ROW does a number of things to manage these risks. It begins when you first contact us. We'll help you select a trip that matches your experience and abilities. On the river you will find that our guides are carefully chosen, skilled professionals with the appropriate training and experience. We use the best available equipment and give a thorough safety briefing prior to all departures. If you're nervous about whitewater, you might want to start off on our Missouri River canoe trip along the Lewis and Clark Trail in Montana or a milder whitewater trip such as the Grande Ronde.
All our guides are certified in first aid and river rescue. Many have had advanced training specific to the wilderness environment in which we operate and are certified as Wilderness First Responders or Emergency Medical Technicians. Thus we are able to cope with most on-river accidents. If in our judgment, evacuation is deemed necessary we have several options depending on weather and our location. Sometimes we are near remote ranches or roads that we can use to evacuate. We carry a satellite telephone along with a GPS on trips lasting three or more days. (Cell phones don't work in the remote areas where we travel.) We can use these to contact emergency transport, including helicopters. Evacuation, if needed, can take from as little as a couple of hours to as many as 24 hours, or in extreme cases, longer than this depending on the situation, weather and location.
What should I do if I fall out of the boat? Before you go on any trip you'll be given extensive instructions on what to do if you fall in and how to float in the river. Believe it or not, many people love falling out of the boat. It's exciting. But it can be disorienting and a little overwhelming at first. Many people have taken multiple trips and never fallen in. Some people fall out on their first trip. Follow your guide's instructions and your "swim" could be the most exciting part of your trip!
Full course meals from lunch the first day through lunch the last day. Trips lasting four or more days, except lodge-based trips, include a post-trip dinner as well. One-day trips include lunch only. Professional river equipment including rafts and their accessories, Coast Guard-approved life jackets, waterproof bags for personal gear, waterproof boxes for cameras, sleeping bags, sleeping bag liners, pillows, thick foam self-inflating mattresses, tents and ground cloths. Wetsuits and booties are provided on all cold water trips in May and June. Also, transportation to and from the river from a designated meeting place as indicated on the trips schedule. Prior to your trip, we'll send you a complete packing list of appropriate clothing and optional items such as cameras, water bottles, etc.
It's important to drink plenty when you're outdoors so ROW provides fresh drinking water at all times. In camp, there's also juice, herbal tea, black tea, coffee, and cocoa. We provide two complimentary sodas and two beers per person, per day and complimentary wine with dinner. If you wish to bring more sodas, beer, or other alcoholic drinks to enjoy in the evening, bring them along. We'll have cocktail ice.
If you're riding in an oar-powered raft on one of our multi-day trips then you can fish between the rapids during the day. We also offer special fishing trips.
Absolutely! You will want to capture the stunning scenery. A waterproof camera with extra batteries and a memory card is highly recommended. While many guests use their smartphones, please realize you will not have cell service or power source for charging and we highly recommend a waterproof case. Portable power banks are a great source for recharging.
Launches on the Owyhee River are strictly controlled and more than half of the river is designated Wild & Scenic by Congress for its incredible diversity of scenery, wildlife, and plants. The Owyhee Canyonlands is home to more than 200 wildlife species and over 110 neotropical migrants pass through this part of the planet as they migrate. There are golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, Swainson’s hawks, prairie falcons and swallows that nest all along the cliff faces. You’ll find woodpeckers, bluebirds, burrowing owls, chukar, cranes and quail.
This area has one of the highest concentrations of hawks, eagles and falcons in the West, rivaling Idaho’s famous Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. Important nesting habitats are found in quaking aspen, western juniper, and conifers. The volcanic ledges and buttes of "Oregon’s Grand Canyon" make wonderful nesting sites for many species. It is amazing to hear the songs of these birds echoing off the canyon walls. Our bird-loving guests will flock towards this adventure!
We may also encounter mule deer, Antelope, and a large herd of bighorn sheep galloping around the sagebrush plateaus.