MIDDLE OWYHEE RIVER

The wild Owyhee River whittles a dramatic, narrow canyon through the highlands of southern Idaho and Oregon, cutting through the rhyolite and basalt plateau as it has for millennia. There is a reason this tributary of the Bruneau has so often been likened to the Grand Canyon. But unlike the Grand, the few that venture to this extraordinary river have its magic all to themselves—the sound of songbirds echoing against thousand-foot sheer canyon walls, the springtime bloom of desert wildflowers, and rapids that vary from fun, Class III waves and holes to technical whitewater.

We offer trips on several sections of this remote river, and multiple access points to the canyons make it possible for you to customize your own trip and schedule. Just ask us for details!

Similar Trips: Upper Owyhee •  Jarbidge Bruneau •  Lower Owyhee

Departure Month: May
Region: Idaho, Oregon
Rating: High Adventure, Intermediate
Pricing: Between $1500 and $2000, Under $1500

The Owyhee River was listed as one of America’s Best Adventures by National Geographic in 2010!

There are more than 250 miles of navigable river in the Owyhee Canyonlands! Each section offers abundant hiking opportunities, wildlife, whitewater, pioneer history, and an extraordinary glimpse into geologic time. Spring on the Owyhee during the snowmelt runoff is truly glorious: the wildflowers are blooming, the red-wing blackbirds are singing, and the rapids get exciting. A hike to the canyon rim to spot an antelope in the distance, an eagle chasing its prey, or just to admire the “awesome vastness” of this country is often a trip highlight. We can also venture to historic trapping and homestead cabins along the way and marvel at the determination of those who carved out a living in this rugged country.

The Owyhee River’s reputation as a big-time whitewater river is well deserved, but there is a quieter side to these beautiful canyons, especially in the Middle and Upper sections. Between rapids there are long, calm stretches of water, allowing us time to listen to the river and take in the sheer walls of red-gold rhyolite towering thousands of feet over our boats.

In 2009, the Owyhee Initiative designated 317 miles of the Owyhee and Jarbidge-Bruneau River systems as wild and scenic. The same legislation designated 517,000 acres of the surrounding land as wilderness, protecting these rivers and the landscape encompassing them.

We have extensive experience on the Owyhee, and all the different sections and access points to these river canyons create endless possibilities for customizing your trip. Ask us for details and we can help make sure you get the trip you’re looking for!

We break the Owyhee into three sections: Upper Owyhee, Middle Owyhee, and Lower Owyhee.

The Middle Owyhee
The Middle Owyhee flows from Three Forks to Rome, an impressive and wild stretch of river that makes up some of the most exciting wilderness rafting in Oregon. Rapids like Ledge and Halfmile are always highlights of the Middle section, along with Widowmaker, a challenging class V obstacle that guides may have to line or run without passengers depending on water levels. In addition to the exciting whitewater, there are great hiking opportunities to Native American petroglyphs, historic cabins, and beautiful, tight-walled canyons to explore. Canyon wrens sing their spring songs and Bighorn sheep wander the rocky canyon. Looking out over miles of open country from the rim really gives you a feeling for what one guest called the “awesome vastness” of this landscape.

A trip on the Middle Owyhee does not only provide a river adventure but likely a 4-wheel drive mission to access this remote canyon! Bring an adventurous spirit and be ready for a great time.

* When running the Middle Owyhee, one can plan for one thing, but get dealt a different hand. Water levels and road conditions can sometimes limit what exact section we run.

2020 SCHEDULES AND PRICES

Middle Owyhee

Three Forks to Rome

April 16th
Thursday
to 19th, 2020
Sunday
8:00AM
4 days

 

The lonely Owyhee Canyonlands is one of the most remote places in the lower 48, and was recently designated wilderness in 2009. The 317-miles of Owyhee River and Jarbidge Bruneau Rivers included in the Owyhee Canyonlands was also designated Wild and Scenic River as part of this legislation. There are more than 250 miles of navigable river in the Owyhee Canyon-lands! We are permitted on many different sections. These miles combine the South Fork, East Fork, and Main Owyhee. There are many different sections and access points to these canyons, leaving the possibilities endless. An adventure into the Owyhee does not only provide an adventure on the river but likely a 4-wheel drive mission to access many of these remote places! The Middle Owyhee is the Three Forks access to Rome, an impressive 48-mile section. This section has more water, which makes for bigger waves and holes, than the upper section. This can be some of the most exciting wilderness rafting in Oregon! Rapids like Ledge and Halfmile are exciting highlights in this section. Widowmaker rapid is a challenging class V obstacle in this canyon. Depending on water levels guides may line boats or run them through without passengers. The Owyhee River’s reputation as a big-time whitewater river is well deserved, but there is a quieter side to these beautiful canyons. In between the rapids there are long calm pools allowing time to take in the 1000 ft sheer wall canyons of the Owyhee. We often see bighorn sheep as we drift along, or surprise them when we are exploring the tight-walled side canyons. We’ll also visit some historic trapping and homestead cabins along the way and marvel at the determination of those who carved out a living in this rugged country! A great run through Ledge or the afternoon song of the canyon wren on a quiet bench can be a highlight of the day. Looking out over miles of open country really gives you a feeling for what one guest called the “awesome vastness” of this country. Bring an adventurous spirit and be ready for a great time!

($1,200.00 per guest) Three Fork to Rome

Middle Owyhee
DATE:
Three Forks to Rome
April 16th – 19th

RATE:

4 Day Trip ~$1,200.00
Other dates available upon request. Call for details.

Included: Your trip includes transportation from Boise to the river and back to Boise at the end of the trip. All meals are included starting with lunch on the first day and ending with lunch on the last day. We provide sleeping bags, pads, and tents (or bring your own gear and receive a $40 discount), dry bags, and wetsuits.

Not Included:
Cost does not include hotels before or after the trip, alcohol, or guide gratuities.

DISCOUNTS:
Charter trips
are available for groups of 6 or more. This means your group has reserved the entire trip. Ask for details.
Group discounts
based upon the number of people in your party.
Discounts
are also available for seniors and children. Please contact us for details.

DEPOSIT AND RESERVATION:
Reservations can be made online or by calling our office.
Payment:
A 25% non-refundable deposit is required to reserve your spot. The remainder is due 45 days prior to trip departure.

After your reservation, we will promptly send you a trip packet including general information on your trip, your invoice and statement, a gear list, and medical and liability waiver forms that you will need to return to our office.

CANCELLATION AND REFUNDS:
Operating quality trips is a costly operation with no margin for losses resulting from late cancellations. The space you reserve is held for you, and this may mean turning others away. Each trip is planned for the number of reserved spaces, guides scheduled, supplies bought, and rafts and vehicles assigned. If notice of cancellation is 45 days prior to departure, you may transfer to any other trip in the same season without penalty. A cancellation less than 45 days before the trip is non-refundable. Depending on circumstances, we can discuss other trip options.

Travel Insurance: We strongly recommend that you protect yourself with a short term traveler’s insurance policy.  Trip cancellation will cover your losses on non-refundable air and land cost on unexpected cancellations.

Cancelled Trips: We reserve the right to cancel a trip due to insufficient reservations, weather or water conditions. In such cases, a full refund for the trip is given. If possible, we will offer an option of a different trip of comparable type.

TRIP LOGISTICS

This trip begins and ends in Boise, Idaho
Air:
Most airlines offer flights into Boise.  You will need to arrive the evening before your trip begins.  We have an orientation around 6 p.m. that night.
Hotel:
Please make hotel reservations at the Best Western Inn in Boise for the evening before your trip and the evening your trip ends.  If you wish to make other arrangements, please give us a call and we will be happy to assist you.
Best Western Vista Inn
Boise, Idaho
1-800-727-5006

SAMPLE ITINERARY

Day before: Arrive in Boise, Idaho. In the evening, we’ll get together to hand out gear and answer any last minute questions.

Day 1: We’ll get an early start for our drive to the river. We usually have lunch, gear up and have a river safety talk before starting our float. The drive into Three Forks can take a good part of the day depending on road conditions.

Day 2-3: We usually have a dutch oven breakfast around the campfire in the morning. After packing our bags and strapping our loads down we’ll hit the water. Our days on the river vary with many opportunities for hiking, exploring and relaxing around our beautiful campsites, so we generally customize our activities to the interests of each particular group when possible. The Middle Owyhee has a mix of exciting rapids and calm water with spectacular canyon scenery. We’ll usually get to camp in the early evening, have some time for hiking, resting, and enjoying the scenery. Later in the evening we’ll enjoy a delicious meal cooked over the open campfire, followed by a dutch oven dessert or a tasty chocolate treat.

Day 4: We’ll eat lunch along the river or at the take out in Rome after a mellow float out from our last campsite. After lunch, we will drive back to Boise arriving in the late afternoon.

Owyhee River Suggested Gear

PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

This is the suggested gear list for this particular trip. Having the right gear is important in making it the best possible experience for you. Most of the gear listed you will have or you can use it year-round on any outdoor excursion (football games, boating, skiing, etc.) We want you to have everything you will need to be comfortable and happy.

Please: no stereos, radios, cell phones or watches

GEAR PROVIDED – we provide LIFE JACKETS, 2 WATERPROOF DUFFEL BAGS (one for sleeping bag, pad & ground cloth, and one for clothing), WATERPROOF DAY BAG for items you would like accessible during the day (dry shirt, suntan lotion, camera, etc.), and WETSUITS or Drysuits are available to rent.  You may use our SLEEPING BAGS, PADS, AND TENTS, or bring your own and receive a discount.

GEAR NEEDED

• SYNTHETIC SLEEPING BAG (WARM EVEN WHEN WET), PAD, TENT, GROUND CLOTH (for sleeping out under the stars and or for spreading your gear on).

• HIGH QUALITY RAIN GEAR… good jacket and pants, poncho’s aren’t enough. AVOID VINYL & CHEAP PLASTICS.

• LIGHTWEIGHT SHIRTS…one long sleeved.

• 1 PAIR LONG PANTS… synthetic are best

• SHORTS…synthetics dry faster.

• SWIMSUIT…nylon is best because it dries faster.

• CAP TO BLOCK SUN, & WOOL OR SYNTHETIC HAT for cool evenings…a must for everyone.  In case of wind attach with chums or a shoe string.

• GLOVES OR MITTENS…synthetic or wool.

• WARM SHIRTS…wool or fleece (2)

• LONG UNDERWEAR…Polypro or Capilene (not cotton) tops & bottoms (2).

• WARM JACKET…synthetic piles are popular because they are warm even when damp.

FOOTWEAR: The comfort of your feet will make a big difference in your enjoyment of the trip!

• HIKING BOOTS or sturdy walking shoes …well broken in. No brand new boots please.

• SOCKS…3-4 pair synthetic wool and fleece socks are also nice.

• THIN LINER SOCKS…nylon or synthetic, not cotton.

• RIVER SHOES OR SANDALS…to wear on the river and on short hikes.  Astral, Teva or Keen make good river shoes.

• NEOPRENE SOCKS… wearing these under river shoes is a combination for keeping your feet warm and safe on the river.

• SUNGLASSES AND TIES FOR GLASSES…protects against glare.  Pack an extra pair of prescription glasses even if  you wear contacts.

• SUN SCREEN…maximum strength sun block & moisture lotion.

• CHAPSTICK

• FLASHLIGHT…small one is fine, headlamps work great.

• WATER BOTTLE…1 liter.

• CAMERA… bring extra batteries.

• SMALL DAY OR FANNY PACK…for side excursions.

• POCKET KNIFE

• ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE…if desired (unbreakable containers).

• BINOCULARS (optional).

Wilderness River Outfitters provide a MAJOR FIRST AID KIT.  However, we do recommend you bring your own preferred personal medication and accessories (Advil, Tylenol, aspirin, Band-Aids, cold medicine).

Reviews from the Owyhee River Trip

Fantastic Owyhee River Trip

On a previous trip to Oregon, I had learned about the Owyhee River. It’s only runnable for a few weeks each spring. The river sounded wonderful and I made a plan to return one day.

There are three sections to the Owyhee. The Upper and Middle Sections are very remote and have some great whitewater sections. The Lower Owyhee is easily accessible, tamer, and the scenery is less dramatic.

There are only about 3 companies that ever run the Upper and Middle Sections. Wilderness River Outfitters has been doing it for years. They offered a trip on the Upper or Middle and they also had an option to do the entire Upper and Middle back-to-back. We opted to do the combination trip for 13 days. We started in Idaho and ended up near Rome, Oregon.

We’ve done a lot of river trips all over the world. But we’ve never done one this long and in such a remote area. The scenery is fabulous and is national park quality. The canyon has stupendous rock formations and felt like a cross between Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

Wilderness River Outfitters is the perfect company for this trip. They know the river very well and they are very conscious about safety. The guides are all friendly, kind and helpful. Oh, and they’re great cooks, too! The quality of all the gear was outstanding.

If you go on the Owyhee you should be aware of a couple of things. Since the river can only be run in the spring, the weather can vary greatly. Some days were sunny and warm and others were rainy and cold. Use the drysuits offered by the company and you’ll be much more comfortable.

Also, there is a physical component of this trip that we’ve not dealt with on other rivers. Due to the remoteness and infrequent use of the river, there aren’t established trails and portage routes. Depending on water levels, there are at least 2 significant portages around unrunnable rapids. With no established trails, it means helping to haul a bunch of gear over huge boulders or while clinging to mountain slopes—sometimes for a lengthy distance.

Wilderness River Outfitters does other trips in some pretty remarkable places. They do a couple of trips in Alaska, a couple in Montana, and an annual trip on the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. They also do standard trips for the entire summer on the Middle Fork of the Salmon and the main Salmon in Idaho.

We really enjoyed this company and we’re currently looking at some of their other remote trips for the future. We hope to see Seth and his crew again sometime soon!

Trip Advisor May 2017
Thanks Keith!