Thursday, March 31, 2022

Amazing convergence of perfect weather, water levels makes a guy feel lucky on the Owyhee River

Pruitt's Castle rises from the sagebrush on the Owyhee River. 

Hi all, 

It's a special thing when you can escape to a never-never land like the Wild and Scenic Owyhee River, tune into the nature channel all around you, and enjoy some very special moments that stay with you long after the trip.  

Pulling out of camp, floating on a quiet section of the river, it's mesmerizing to just sit back and listen to the river, the birds, and the bugs, while dipping your oars in and out of the water in a rhythmic motion. 

And then the rapids come up around the corner. You're greeted by a thunderous sound of whitewater in a tight canyon, and it's time to focus on the river!    

Katie Metzger on the sticks in the cataraft; Make and Shane on the SUPs

Over 25+ years of doing spring trips on the Owyhee River, I feel like I've experience such an amazing array of challenging conditions with any combination of stiff headwinds, torrential rain storms, horizontal snow, muddy roads, even medical evacs. 

But in my most recent trip, March 22-25, the stars aligned for the most perfect conditions imaginable - conditions that I'm sure will never happen again! But we had a combination of solid river flows, perfect weather and ... shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh no wind!  

OMG, that never happens on the Owyhee River! 

Bruce and Norm are pumped about the river trip at the put-in ... 

I'd been watching the river gauge daily, and I knew with a flow of 2,000 cfs in mid-March, that flow would not last long with 70 percent snowpack! 

And I'd been watching the weather daily, and the Rome, OR, forecast that week was amazingly nice and sunny with afternoon highs in the 70s. 

So I pulled together a trip in a matter of days. I got commitments from my friends Katie Metzger and Dan Popkey immediately. They both have their own rafts, so that meant we had 3 boats including mine, and our trip was a go! Just had to fill in with passengers. We were really lucky to get a bunch of super fun people together who could take off Tuesday-Friday during the middle of the week. 

Shane and Mark getting into their dry suits at the put-in.

My longtime friend Bruce Reichert, Mr. Outdoor Idaho, jumped at the chance to join us, as did my friend Norm Nelson. Morley Nelson's oldest son, Norm's spirit soars when we see golden eagles, prairie falcons and hawks flying above. Mine does too! We ended up seeing a ton of eagles, falcons and hawks! So special! 

My friend Mark Anderson and fellow SUP expert Shane Preston paddled their SUPs while I carried their gear. And Katie invited her friend Eric, a BSU math professor, to join us and ride in her cataraft. 

Natural hot springs along the way ... 

We had a crew of 8. Everyone took turns cooking. We ate like kings and queens every night. 

The trip: We floated 48 miles from the BLM put-in at Rome to the BLM takeout at the old Birch Creek Ranch. This section is known as the Lower Owyhee. You hire locals to drive your shuttle. It's a pretty gnarly 4WD high-clearance road to go from the Birch Creek takeout back to U.S. Highway 95, so you need a solid vehicle for the river trip. It's all pavement to the put-in. 

Norm does an oil painting of Pruitt's Castle in camp 

Trip map
: BLM river guides are available for all of the forks of the Owyhee River and the Jarbidge-Bruneau river.  

I'm just going to share a few photos from our trip. Not much more needs to be said about the Owyhee River canyon's beauty. The pictures do the talking. 

Bruce works on his Chicken piccata dish with plenty of butter, garlic and morels in the Dutch oven.   

Katie is talented with her magical colored balls at night ... check out the video. 

Many local boaters know about the Owyhee River. But if you don't have your own gear, plan a trip with an Idaho outfitter. There are several that do the Owyhee, including ROW Adventures, Far & Away, Barker River Expeditions, and Wilderness River Outfitters

- SS

Dan made delicious salmon filets on night 3, combined with mushroom
risotto  and salad. Pineapple upside down cake for dessert in the D.O. 

Another angle on that camp ... pretty much paradise to me!  

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