My Desert Adventure: Paddling Oregon’s Grand Canyon

watch

Chad Brown on Fly Fishing

Chad Brown on Fly Fishing

listen

Owyhee Canyon Swallows Sparrows and Rushing Water

Owyhee Canyon Swallows Sparrows and Rushing Water

voices

Tim Neville, journalist

Tim Neville, journalist

“Oregon’s Owyhee reminds me a lot of Southern Utah’s red rock country… only dipped in fudge.”

On the river, I knew we’d find some flat water and the first day delivered with long stretches between class III rapids as the river slowly gained some gradient and flowed closer to the infamous canyon. Further downriver, there are two class IV rapids, Whistling Bird and Montgomery, which kept me on my toes to avoid hazards including undercut rocks. My favorite rapid of the trip was Artillery, which delivered a splashy series of big waves at the flows we paddled.

The one thing I didn’t expect was to be blown away by the amazing scenery. The entire Owyhee landscape was outstanding, I had no idea how big the canyon walls were going to be or all the colors in the rocks. My neck was sore from staring up at the beauty as we floated by. Now I knew why this area is called Oregon’s Grand Canyon! Every day there was a new type of formation to see and I wish we had a geologist with us to better understand the ever-changing volcanic landscape. Hiking up to the canyon rim from our campsites each day became a highlight of the trip as the views gave us a better perspective on the river carving deep through the desert plateau. We also saw many different wildflowers, birds, and our fair share of rattlesnakes along the way. 

My first trip to eastern Oregon was one I won’t forget. I’m already scheming my next visit back, with plans to paddle the middle Owyhee during our next solid water year. With deeper canyon walls, bigger class IV and V rapids, and more public lands to explore, I can’t wait to go back to the Owyhee.


My Desert Adventure: Paddling Oregon’s Grand Canyon

Author: Ajay Sapre  |  Published: April 2, 2021  |  Category: Profile A Portlander comes to understand that a trip down the Owyhee is about more than chasing rapids — it’s about experiencing the landscape itself. After moving to Oregon in 2016, I focused most of my paddling on rivers close to my home in Portland....

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