Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Grande Ronde River is a fantastic springtime getaway; plus Boise Bike Week

It was sunny and warm on Friday ... floated 10 miles in the afternoon before making camp. 
Hiking above the river provides a great perspective on the Grande Ronde canyon. 
Jarod and Vivian with their bird dogs ... they're great fun! 

Spacious campsite on a piney bar 
Doug Lawrence baked Vivian's birthday cake to perfection in the Dutch oven
Wendy enjoyed the moss and the flowers,
and she always likes being on the river!  
We saw quite a few bald eagles 
Hi all, 

Last week, the weather was SO nice that we seized the day and embarked on an impromptu three-day trip on the Grande Ronde River in NE Oregon, floating from Minam (northeast of La Grande) to Powatka Bridge, a distance of about 39 miles. 

It turned out to be a fantastic trip. The Grande Ronde is a great choice in the spring because the countryside is soooooooooooooooooooo velvety green and beautiful, the river flows are high enough to cover the rocks and make navigation really easy, and wildflowers are blooming everywhere. Self-issue permits are easily obtained at the put-in, and there are dozens of sweet campsites to chose from as you float the canyon. 

In terms of difficulty, the Grande Ronde is rated Class 2 - 3, which is pretty low key on the whitewater scale. For our trip, we had 5,500-7,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of river flow. At that flow, we scooted along, clocking river miles with ease. Just put the oars under your knees, kick back and sip a beverage while enjoying the scenery and wildlife along the way. 

We took two rafts and had one hardshell kayaker for a nice, small party of 5. I'd be possible to canoe the Grande Ronde with experienced paddlers and flotation, and it'd be fun to paddle it with an inflatable kayak. You'd just need to wear cold-water gear to be comfortable. 

From Boise, it takes about 4 hours to get to the put-in -- 3 hours via I-84 to La Grande, and an hour on two-lane paved roads to Minam, a little roadstop next to Minam State Park, a gorgeous place to camp the night before you launch, if you wish.

One of the neatest parts of floating the Grande Ronde is staying in those beautiful, grassy riverbank campsites amid ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees. On night #2 of our trip, we stayed in this spacious campsite that was easily as cool as some of the best camps on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. It had a large grassy meadow, a big kitchen area in the trees, a hike up a ridge behind camp, and lots of wildflowers. 

For vehicle shuttles, you can sign up at the Minam put-in ($90 per vehicle), and you can buy BLM river maps there as well. It's no farther to the Grande Ronde put-in than it is to drive to Middle Fork. It just happens to be in Oregon!
Doug Lawrence is ready for his next adventure. 
As the water drops -- it's running at 6,470 this week -- you have to bring your fishing pole. It's a quality trout fishery, and in the fall, it's full-on steelhead fishing similar to the Riggins area in Idaho.

View from the top of Wildcat Grade as we drove away ... 
If you don't have your own rafting stuff, there are three outfitters that offer trips on the Grande Ronde: ROW AdventuresOregon Whitewater Adventures and All Star Rafting and Kayaking. If you have an interest in learning how to row a raft, renting one to float the Grande Ronde would be a great way to break into the sport.
Next week is Boise Bike Week! There are a whole bunch of events going on throughout the week that sound fun. Check out the calendar of events and contribute to the pedal power in our community. The Trail of Beers is my favorite this year. It's a new event where cyclists will ride to different beer pubs, get discounts on beer, and then ride to the next establishment. The official Kick-Off party for Trail of Beers will take place Monday May 12th at Highlands Hollow Brewhouse, following the Twilight Ride that will leave from there at 6:00 p.m. They're going to close down the parking lot and throw a party with a live band starting at 7:30 p.m. featuring members of the Random Canyon Growlers. It will be a great time! 

No radio program this week ... I'll be back on 94.9 FM next week at 7:30 a.m. 

-- SS

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