With flows peaking at over 11,000 cfs on the Grande Ronde River gauge at Troy, Minam Store guide Austin Boswell and I (guide Seth Coffman) decided we better do an overnight float from Minam to Powwatka. At these flows it's possible to make the nearly 40 mile float in a single day, but when you're traveling down one of the prettiest river corridors in Oregon do you really want to rush? Joined by a couple friends, on Sunday we launched in a downpour, rowed in the rain, and made camp in a drizzle. In other words, it was a wet day on the river, but we were prepared with a wall tent and stove and had the pleasant type of day the Grande Ronde always seems to spoil us with. Likewise, the wildlife seemed to be enjoying the wet spring weather as we were treated with sightings of elk, mountain goats, and a couple of ravenous bears heartily foraging after their long winter nap. In the evening, the rain subsided and by the time we were ready to retire for the night, stars were shining out from behind the scattered clouds.
The morning was cool, but the sun soon emerged over the canyon wall and warmed things up quickly. With plenty of time on our hands, we packed up camp then went for a hike. The hills are greening up nicely right now, but other than plentiful lomatium, many of the wildflowers are yet to bloom. Our dogs enjoyed themselves, as well on our hike, as they flushed numerous blue grouse and a few pairs of chukars. Sometime in the mid-afternoon, we made our way back to the boats and headed for the takeout, arriving before any of us were ready.
At this time of year the weather and flows can be unpredictable, but if you're willing to take a chance and send it down the river, you'll never be disappointed. Similar to the fall, in the spring the Wild and Scenic Grande Ronde offers unmatched solitude and the opportunity to see the diverse array of wildlife that makes eastern Oregon river country so special. Our trip ended too soon, but it's time to head on to the next river. On Wednesday, we will depart from Hells Canyon Dam on a 5 day trip to Pittsburg. Spring is here and summer is coming soon!
Hemingway helping Austin on the oars, Ruger enjoying the ride