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 the 200-mile long river's terminus into the Snake. The Owyhee travels through the sparse country and its remote canyon scenery is a favorite destination for whitewater rafting connoisseurs. 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. 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. 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 this remote river canyon. 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 an ideal family vacation or an extreme adventure for experienced rafters. Each portion is unique and ROW has permits to float four different sections of the strictly regulated river. Owyhee River rafting trips range from four to seven days.
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. 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, you sit in awe as the rock pinnacles of the Owyhee River's hillsides become silhouetted against a colorful Idaho sunset. After dinner, you sit around the glowing embers of the campfire and imagine what life was like when the Nez Perce tribe ruled these hills. This incredible desert canyon is rarely visited and offers an array of adventure, scenery and cultural history.
East Fork Owyhee River and South Fork Owyhee River adventures take you to the most remote river sections and are more expeditionary in nature, with most guests paddling atop inflatable kayaks or daring duckies.
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.
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 being at Birch Creek. During the trip we visit several wonderful hot springs where we try to spend a night or two. 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. The best choice for those who don't want the tough whitewater of the Middle Section, or the expedition-quality of the Upper sections. Trips are limited to 16 guests and four guides.
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 near Rome. During the trip we stop to scout several of the rapids, and line our rafts at the Widow Maker - a process requiring 3-5 hours, depending on how many rafts we have. This section 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 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 Upper Owyhee River Rafting Trips - South Fork Details
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
5-Day - Lower Owyhee
Departures: April 29, May 6, 27 and by request
Adult Price: $1385
Youth Price: $1265
7-Day - Upper Owyhee
Departures: May / Early June by request (1 guide per 2 guests)
Adult Price: $2390
5-Day - Private Trip Lower Owyhee
Private Trip Rate = $18,800; Dates based on availability from late April to mid-June.
Images & Videos
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.
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 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.
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.