Thursday, April 8, 2010

Time to plan a river trip in the Owyhees

Bruneau River canyon

Lower Owyhee. Great campsites!

East Fork of the Owyhee River

Hi all,

April is upon us, and that means it's time to run desert rivers in SW Idaho and eastern Oregon.

I'm talking about the Owyhee River and the Bruneau River -- world-class river canyons that are only several hours from Boise. These are natural freeflowing rivers, so you need to time your trip with the best water flows, which can be anytime from now until late May or early June. It's also nice to time your trip with nice weather.

Here's some video of running the lower Owyhee.

Every year can be tricky because snowpack levels change rapidly during the tumultuous spring weather and runoff. Right now, however, with the resurgence of winter weather in the last few weeks, the Owyhee and Bruneau basins are in the 90 percent range.

No permits are required for either river (except for self-issue BLM permits), so you can just plan your dates and go. Watch the river-flow reports to check on the best flows. In general, the Owyhee is best for rafting and kayaking above 1,500 cfs at Rome, Ore. The Bruneau is best above 1,200 cfs at Bruneau Hot Springs.

For those of you who don't have your own rafting or kayaking equipment, consider going with one of many outfitters who run the Owyhee River. I'd also check on the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association web site for suggestions.

The outfitters who run the Owyhee that I'm familiar with include:

Every outfitter has their particular style of trip. Ask questions about what's important to you -- food, drink, side-hiking, interpretation, putting up your own tent or having them do it for you -- all of these things may be different with each outfitter.

If you're going on your own, pick up a good river map from the BLM office in Boise so you know how to get to the boat-launch site, what kinds of rapids to expect in various river reaches, where to find campsites, etc. River shuttle services can be found here.

The main thing is to get out and experience these stunningly beautiful river canyons right in our backyard. All you have to do is seize the day and do it before the water goes away ....

- SS