Rugged Oregon is surrounded on three sides by water - the Pacific to the west, the mighty Columbia River to the north and the Snake River along much of the Idaho state line to the east. Within these borders, this land of forests and mountains contains other rivers that invite exploration. Among them are the whitewater Rogue River in the southwest, the John Day, Oregon's longest river, the Deschutes in the northwest, and the Owyhee in the southeast. Rafters can find daunting rapids with names like Bodacious Bounce and Widow-maker, as well as white sandy beaches, deep gorges, sparkling clear water, desert canyons, and endless pine forests. Oregon's abundant wildlife includes bighorn sheep, bears, deer, minks, otters, bald and golden eagles, ospreys and herons.

Whitewater Rafting in Oregon includes the scenic Rogue River

The Rogue River is a charter member of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers club founded by Congress in 1968. Whitewater rafters in Oregon who put in near Grants Pass can spend several days traveling through a wilderness of forested canyons, rockslides, cascading side streams, and fern-shrouded grottoes. Its numerous rapids are mostly moderate, Class III-IV, and billed as suitable for both beginning and seasoned rafters. The 33-mile wild section of the Rogue is so popular that permits for individual boaters are issued by lottery for trips between June 1 and September 15. The chance of winning is said to average one in 10. For a sure thing, book with an outfitter. Fishing for steelhead begins in early September and lasts until mid-November, while salmon are caught in spring and summer. Most rafters think that whitewater rafting in Oregon is definitely worth the trouble.

The Deschutes cuts through the arid desert of central Oregon on its way north to join the Columbia. In this semi-wilderness, the rafter glides past desert hills and rocky canyons. With whitewater rapids no tougher than Class III+, the Deschutes is good for families and experienced floaters alike.

Rafting in Oregon Includes Runs for Experts Only

Only expert whitewater rafters in Oregon should run the Middle Owyhee with its Class IV-V rapids. Of these adventurers, only the most daring attempt the notorious Widow maker rapids in the steep-sided canyon. Below this obstacle the walls of the chasm widen and, for the last seven miles of the trip down to Rome on US 95, boaters must paddle on flat water, often against strong afternoon headwinds.

While the Middle Owyhee can only be run between March and May, the Lower Owyhee - from Rome to Owyhee Lake is raftable from April through June. This downstream section is also less fearsome, with somewhat easier Class III-IV rapids. It is therefore accessible to thrill-seeking novices as well as experts. Its pristine desert canyon wilderness, with its multi-colored rock turrets, offers interesting geology and birdlife.

Another exciting trip for whitewater rafters in Oregon is the North Umpqua. The name is derived from an Indian word meaning satisfaction. Recently designated a state and federal scenic waterway, the Umpqua has become a favorite for whitewater rafting in Oregon. This trip through Class III-IV rapids is an ideal weekend outing. Runnable from April through July, the North Umpqua winds its way through a narrow, forested gorge. Its waters near Steamboat Creek have long been beloved by anglers, including Zane Grey, who wrote books on game fishing as well as his popular novels of the American West.

Gentler whitewater rafting in Oregon through grand scenery is to be found on the 275-mile John Day River. The Upper John Day between Service Creek and Clarno in north central Oregon is normally raftable only in April and May. But it offers Class II-III rapids and superb views of ranch country amid the Blue Mountains. The Lower John Day from Clarno down to Cottonwood Canyon Bridge is runnable until late July and has easy Class I-II whitewater rapids for novices. It runs through semi-arid canyon land where whitewater paddlers feel the solitude of Oregon's great wide spaces.


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