Oregon Desert Trail: 175-Mile Packraft on the Owyhee River: The Prep

This is a repost from a blog I wrote for the ONDA website:


Ready to packraft the Chewaucan River outside Paisley in 2015

Ready to packraft the Chewaucan River outside Paisley in 2015

I have been looking forward to the exploring the Owyhee River section of the Oregon Desert Trail (ODT) ever since I visited Anderson Crossing with Sage Clegg on her 2013 thru-hike. Even though it was early July when we went to the Little West Owyhee that year, I saw pools of water and fish darting into the shadows; the sight had me dreaming of coming back with my packraft. I wondered: Is it boatable in the summer at lower flows? How low is too low? Do I have the skills to packraft the entire river? Could I create a river “alternate” to the 175 mile hike of the ODT in this area?

And so the seed of a great adventure was planted in my imagination. Couple that with my new job as the Oregon Desert Trail Coordinator, and ONDA’s efforts to protect the stunning wilderness of the Owyhee Canyonlands, and I had multiple reasons to immerse myself in the remote canyon.

Before I could start the next section of the trail I had some serious planning to undertake. Since I would be making the trip solo and adding in a more “risky” sport like packrafting on top of backpacking, I wanted to be sure I was going about the trip in a safe and smart manner. In addition, I was paddling a river I had never been on before that contained Class IV and V rapids, so I needed to be confident in my abilities, and my ability to get help if I needed it.

My boyfriend Kirk and I have been paddling remote rivers in our Alpacka Rafts since 2012, and I have enjoyed broadening my horizons beyond just backpacking. Since we live in Bend, many of our high desert rivers only flow in the spring, or usually have low flows. When I was a beginner packrafter I enjoyed paddling low-flow rivers, and have loved getting out sections of the North Fork John Day River, North Fork Malheur River, Chewaucan River, Crooked River, Wychus Creek, and others.

North Fork Crooked River

The North Fork of the Crooked River was one of my first packrafting trips in 2012

A large component to running remote rivers – either at low flow or at high – is scouting. I knew I would have to scout (or get out of the river to look for safe passage) a lot on the Owyhee River, especially since some of the larger rapids like Half Mile and Widowmaker were most likely impassable in my little boat. I tried to look up trip reports online to get a feel for what I would encounter, but didn’t find much about what these rapids would look like at 200 or less cfs (a river measurement for cubic feet per second). To give you perspective, a normal raft trip down the Owyhee River would not launch below 1,000 cfs, and many people run the river up to 10,000 cfs. 100 cfs would seem impossible to many…but to a packraft? I’d find out!

Renee Scouting

Scouting rapids is crucial for a safe and fun river trip

With 7 years of paddling experience, and 5 years of packrafting on desert rivers, I felt confident in my ability to make the right decisions in the Owyhee canyon to keep myself safe. Going solo, however, added another layer of risk which required me to consider all the scenarios of what I would encounter, and pack extra gear to cover my bases. My safety gear included a helmet, PFD (personal flotation device), a throw bag (could also use to line my boat down the river as I walked along the side), patch kit, well-stocked first aid kit, and Delorume InReach GPS device. The Delorume Inreach could send text messages during my trip, the device would track my progress every hour so Kirk could stay up-to-date on where I was, and in the event that I did need help, I could press the big red button that would bring search and rescue as a last resort. All of this helped put my and Kirk’s mind at ease.

Packing was another story. Since I wasn’t sure how many miles I would have to backpack down the West Little Owyhee before getting to a spot on the river with enough water to paddle, I was prepared to spend over a week in the first 87 miles of the route. I knew the West Little Owyhee was extremely challenging. Navigating in and around the boulder-choked narrow canyons and thick willows could make the trip so slow that my planned seven days to reach Rome (the half-way spot) could easily stretch into 10 or 12. But something I learned on my Continental Divide Trail thru-hike last year was to be prepared to be unprepared. I packed extra food, extra boating gear, extra shoes, extra everything so I could make decisions on the ground. But in reality all that added up to a HEAVY pack.

Renee packraft gear

Packrafting means lots of gear

Renee pack

Regardless of the results of my river trip, I was excited to be able to explore a different mode of travel along the Oregon Desert Trail, and asses the skill level needed to take this “water alternate.”

To the river!

Stay tuned for another blog post coming soon about the trip. Questions? Contact Renee at renee@onda.org.

TOAKS Titanium Review

Toaks Photo in use 2

TOAKS on the Owyhee River section of the Oregon Desert Trail

As an avid long distance backpacker, I’ve spent years researching gear in the effort to lighten up my pack weight. It may seem obvious, but a lighter pack translates to less stress on your legs, knees and feet, and more importantly, the ability to hike longer days and more miles. While a lighter pack makes a lot of sense when you are backpacking for months on end during a thru-hike, it is equally important when hikers set out for a weekend or few days in the backcountry.

I’ve seen many weekend hikers porting huge packs up and down the trails, grumbling about the torturous experience, and perhaps souring them on backpacking in the future. Don’t let this happen to you!

In this day and age there are many ultralight products to choose from, and in the 14 years I’ve been backpacking I’ve owned multiples of just about every piece of gear. But technology advances, and big improvements are made all the time in outdoor gear.

Since being introduced to TOAKS titanium products earlier this year, I’ve decided to try out a few items while hiking for my new job as the Oregon Desert Trail Coordinator. For a thru-hiker, getting to help establish a new long distance hiking trail is a dream job come true. This 750 mile trail traverses the desert of eastern Oregon, and has only been around for a few years, so in order to determine what the trail needs to move forward, I had to do the only obvious thing: hike it!

Oregon Desert Trail through the Alvord Desert

Oregon Desert Trail through the Alvord Desert

I decided to make a break from using traditional backpacking stoves and try out the TOAKS Titanium Backpacking Wood Burning Stove.  I’ve used lots of other stoves, but what they all have in common is fuel. There are as many types of fuel for backpacking stoves as there are stoves, and it can be a real challenge to find the right kind of fuel in the area of the world you are hiking. Finding fuel for a wood burning stove is as easy as it sounds.

So far I’ve carried this stove on 425 miles of the Oregon Desert Trail, 140 of those miles along the remote Owyhee River corridor. In all instances there was plenty of fuel to choose from. Dry pieces of sagebrush burn hot and leave almost no traces once burned down, and even along the river I was able to find dry driftwood to fuel the stove. It was such a peace of mind to know I didn’t have to figure out how to mail or find fuel along the eastern Oregon route.

Toaks Photo in use 1
There are a few things to know about cooking on a wood burning stove: 1) the fire does need your attention during the cooking phase, 2) cooking does take a little longer, and 3) cooking over an open flame will cover your stove and pot with soot. The benefits include: 1) stove weighs 7oz, 2) no need to carry fuel, 3) stove fits perfectly into the TOAKS Titanium 1100 ml pot, and 4) the set-up is stable, I had no concerns over the flames spilling out to surrounding grasses.

To keep the flame going long enough to boil water or cook you food, it’s a good idea to make a pile of small pieces of wood to keep feeding into the stove when the flame gets low. I like making a pile of 2-3 inch long pieces; these will be easy to add into the bottom chamber while your cook pot sits on top. Paying attention to your stove is always a good idea, and to make sure the flame doesn’t go out, it’s a good idea to put aside your other camp tasks and focus on the fire. Bonus: on cold nights or mornings you have some extra heat!

Because you are burning wood, the flame will release soot that can coat your stove and pot. Having a storage bag is important to keep the rest of your gear clean. I didn’t mind the black dust, and since I always carry some wet wipes, I was always able to clean off any smudges I might get on my hands.

Hikers will still need to pay attention to fire bans in certain areas during dry times of the year. In places where any open flame-type stoves are not allowed, the wood burner will not be the best choice, but for most environments this stove is a great option.

the sky seems bigger in the desert

When using a wood burning stove it’s important to pay attention to fire restrictions in the backcountry.

Have some damp wood you are trying to use? I’ve been using cotton balls with a bit of Vaseline on them. This hiker hack will burn long enough to dry out some of the smaller twigs, and the excellent air flow from the bottom of the stove will help your other pieces of wood dry out until they catch fire.

To round out my gear updates this summer, I’ve been using TOAKS Titanium tent stakes. Since Titanium is stronger than other popular aluminum stakes, these are not as likely to bend when trying to pitch your tent in hard-packed ground. They are incredibly lightweight, and easy to use.

Titanium is one of the lightest materials on the market, and TOAKS does a great job integrating it into their products so you will not only have some of the lightest gear on the market, but it will be incredibly durable and perform well in the backcountry.

Photos from my Oregon Desert Trail trips so far – 425 miles of awesomeness

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I’m hiking the Oregon Desert Trail in sections this year, and will be uploading photos periodically to the Oregon Natural Desert Association Flickr page. You can see the slideshows here:

Section 25

Section 24

Section 23

Section 22

Section 21

Section 20

McDermitt Alternate

Section 18

Section 17

Section 16

Section 15

Section 12

Section 11

Section 10

Repost from Adventures with Packraft

I’ve been done with my Owyhee trip for a week now. Since starting work on the Oregon Desert Trail late last year it’s been my goal to hike/packraft the entire 750 miles. This Owyhee chunk has me up to 425 miles, and I’ll complete the trail in September with the section between Bend and Plush, Oregon.
For a packraft alternate in the Owyhee canyon, I’ll be putting together specifics on which sections are suitable at low water to paddle; from 3 Forks to the area just after Iron Point I would recommend paddlers be comfortable scouting and running low flow to at least Class III. From Five Bar to 3 Forks and from Iron Point on I think less experienced paddlers would be fine (200 cfs and less). Stay tuned for more details.
All this rating of rapids in a remote canyon however is a bit of a faulty science. After talking with Kirk and length about what a Class III looks like road-side, compared to a Class III in a canyon days away from civilization, it seems like there could be a better rating system. Not all rapids are equal depending on your surroundings.

He shared this video with me about Addison’s scale that separates rapids or rivers into ratings based on the difficulty, danger, and exposure. Based on this rating boaters can get a much better picture of the true risk involved in a rapid or river.

For example, with the trip I just completed at low flow on the Owyhee, there wasn’t too much difficulty in the rapids, definitely some maneuvering and scouting, so I’d rate it a difficulty of Class III. The danger – risk of injury or death, was also in the realms of 3, however I think some of the portages may have been 4, getting around The Ledge, Half Mile, and Widowmaker involved some serious rock scrambling, lifting and lowering of the boat, climbing…even being very careful I slipped and cracked my tailbone good on one portage. Risk can be high, so I’m inclined to go with a 4. As for exposure, you are far far away from help on the Owyhee. If I had to hike out it would be days to help. I had a Delorum Inreach beacon, so that could have brought help to me, but that could take at least a day as well. So for exposure I would give the Owyhee a C rating. So for the Owyhee at low flow I give it a Class III-4-C rating.

Now for my gear list. I definitely had some extras that I should have brought, 4 pairs of socks??? Don’t know how that happened. I brought 2 throw bags, didn’t need 2. So below is mostly what I brought, but leaving off the extraneous things that I regretting bringing.

Item Specific Item Weight
Pack Six Moon Designs Flex Pack 51 oz
Packraft Alpacka Llama with Cargo Fly 8 lbs (with added thigh straps, back band and other modifications)
Paddle Werner Player 4 piece 40.5 oz
Helmet Sweet Protection Strutter 14.1 oz
PFD Astral Hybrid (no longer available, sob, I want one!! I used Kirk’s for the trip)
Throw bag Kirk made a small one
Bow bag Kirk made me one
Patch kit Tenacious tape, aqua seal, boat patches
Sleeping Pad Gossamer Gear Air Beam 3/4 Wide (Air Beam is not available anymore) 11.7 oz
Sleeping Bag Western Mountaineering Ultralight 20 degree 29 oz (I need to get a summer quilt, this was too warm)
Ground Cloth Tyvek 5 oz
Shelter Six Moon Designs Deschutes Cuben Fiber 7 oz (I should have brought a free standing net tent)
Stakes TOAKS Titanium stakes x6 1.3 oz
Poles Black Diamond Z-Poles with foam for tips when storing in boat 17 oz
Cook Pot TOAKS Titanium 1100ml Pot 4 oz
Spoon Oboz plastic spoon/spork 1 oz
Stove TOAKS Titanium Backpacking Wood Burning Stove 7.9 oz
French Press I bought at REI 10 years ago, I use plastic inner cup
Water Containers Platypus Hoser 1.8 liter 3.4 oz
Vapur 1 Liter Bottle 1.4 oz
Water Filter Sawyer Mini 2 oz
Water treatment eye dropper of bleach
Camera/Phone Galaxy S5 5.1 oz
Lifeproof Case 1.6 oz
GoPro 3 (3 batteries) (I lost my GoPro day 2)
External Battery Anker 2nd Gen Astro E5 10.9 oz
Headphones Generic
USB charger & 2 charging cords Verizon 7 oz
GPS/Beacon DeLorum InReach 7 oz
Umbrella Six Moon Designs Silver Shadow 8 oz
Headlamp Petzel Tikka RZP Rechargable Headlamp 4 oz
Stuff Sacks OR UltraLight Dry Sack 1.6 oz
Knife Gerber US1 1 oz
Bag Liner Trash compactor bag
Jacket Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka 11.8 oz
Patagonia Hoodini 4.3 oz
Outdoor Research Helium II 5.5 oz
hat Hikertrash trucker hat 2 oz
Outdoor Research Pinball Hat 2.7 oz
First Aid Misc
Long sleeve shirt Outdoor Research Reflection sun shirt 7.5 oz
Pants Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pant
Skirt Purple Rain Skirt
Long johns Outdoor Research Essence Tights 5.2 oz
Socks X3 pairs Point6 merino socks (should have just brought 1 pair of socks)
Shoes Oboz Luna 12.6 oz
Luna Sandles – Mono
Rain skirt trash compactor bag
Mittens Gordini Stash Lite Touch Mitt
Gaiters OR Gortex Gaiters 10.2 oz

Day 13 – Getting Home

I slept well next to the groaning and mutterings of the RVs around me. I packed up, made a cup of French press coffee for the road, and headed up to the road to walk myself to a point where I would be more likely to get a ride.

It was a beautiful morning, and a bit of cloud cover made for a pleasent walk.

I passed a couple more boat ramps and my optimism soared, even if I had to wait all day, surely some day trippers would be heading to town later.

After about 5 miles I hit the dam, I guess the Lake Owyhee dam was a test run for the Hoover Dam back in the day.

At the base of the dam were a few houses and some more camping. I could see a few fishermen in the river. I will get a ride today!

I sat down by the entrance to the community at the base of the dam and made myself a new hitching sign. The one I made last night said “help to Ontario” and I made another that said “help to town”. I didn’t want to limit myself.

After about an hour a few cars had passed, but when a truck with a top camper passed, it slowed down and backed up. Oh please…

Mark & Karna Berg hopped out and made room for me in the truck. The couple was from Albany, Oregon and was taking their first vacation in years. It was so nice to be in the truck knowing I had my ride. After a while they mentioned their plan was to head to Paulina Lake just outside Bend, and they would be happy to take me all the way back to town. What!?!?! Yes please. The Bergs saved me a whole day of trying to get home. What incredible generosity.
In Vale we stopped for lunch where I treated us all to some big burgers, then I sat back to relax on the 4 hour drive back home.

Done and done!

​Day 12 – 22.5 miles & done!!! (175.3 total)

That’s 141.5 river miles, 33.8 hiking miles.

Today was brutal.

I woke up before the sun and made quick order of the morning. I may not know how many miles it was to the end point of the reservoir at Indian Springs Campground, but I was going to make it there. Determination had me in my boat by 6am. I took my coffee to go and had it perched between my feet so every so often I would take a 5 second break to re-up my caffeine levels.

The water was utterly still in the morning, and I made good time, paddling steadily north, only taking a few seconds to drink coffee and stretch my hands which were going to be stuck in a claw grip by the end of the day.

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The wind remained at bay most of the morning and I motored along, marveling at my surroundings as I steadily paddled. About 11am I passed a big group of houses…only water access here and I started to see more motor boats coming and going. I think I was still about 12+ miles out, and would TOTALLY live here if I had a chance. How cool! I had paddled past a house where someone had waved at me, and a short while later the man and his dog show up near by and slowed down to talk.

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Dave and his dog Clue had spent a few days at their cabin and were heading home that afternoon. He gave me some cold water, and we shared a beer there in the middle of the lake. Dave told me they didn’t know why all the fish had died this year and the water didn’t recede any faster than it normally does. He also mentioned a large algae bloom was the blame for all the green slime in the water, again, folks weren’t quite sure why that had happened either. Change is a foot in nature! Dave offered to give me a ride to the end, but I wanted to get there under my own steam, so thanked him and was on my way again. It was the longest break I had taken all day, and was grateful to give my arms a rest for a minute.

As soon as I turned the next corner the wind hit me full force. What I didn’t realize was that I would be paddling into the wind for the next 5 hours. Ouch. I gave the paddle another hour before I pulled over and tried to eat something and lay on the rocks in complete exhaustion. But I couldn’t stop. Had to keep motoring, and now that I was going against the wind I had to paddle harder and longer to go the same distance. THIS is why I was hesitant to paddle in the reservoir. But here I was and any pause to my paddling rhythm had me getting blown backwards. Curses!

I went into machine phase. For the next solid 5 hours I paddled. I paddled and tried not to think about the pain stretching through my shoulders, the fact that my wrists and elbows were straining under the repetition. With each stroke I would try and stretch my fingers a bit to give them a break, but I couldn’t stop. I had to keep going.

I’m not sure where my mind went during those hours. For a short while I sang whatever songs I could remember the words to really loudly into the wind. That helped. Then I tried to listen to some music on  my phone, and then just didn’t think at all. I was the paddle. I was the wind. I just was.

I continually checked Gaia to see what the most efficient route would be. Without it I surely would have taken a detour into one of the many arms of the lake, it was hard to tell what the route should be, so THANK YOU gps app. I made a pretty straight shot.

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When I finally knew I was getting close it was hard to keep up the rhythmic motion, I so badly wanted to stop. Finally, finally I saw the rocky jetty just behind Indian Springs Campground that was the official ending point of the Oregon Desert Trail. I thought about getting out and climbing up on the rock as I floated by, but then just figured I was close enough!

The end!

I reached the boat ramp at 4:45pm and even though I wanted to collapse on dry ground, if I had any chance of hitching out of the lake I would need to keep moving. My exit plan was simple. Catch a ride to Vale or Ontairo Oregon where there was a bus that left each morning at 9am for the trip to Bend. If I could get a ride to town tonight, I could be on the bus tomorrow and home. If I had to wait until the morning to get a ride, I would have to wait another whole day for the bus. Granted that wouldn’t be all bad…an air conditioned hotel room, probably some delivery pizza…not too bad at all! But I was eager to be home and have a few days to relax in my own space.

I deflated my boat, packed up everything and started sweating up the hill about a mile where I found the first shady spot along the road, and sat down to see if anyone from either of the 2 close by campgrounds would be leaving. 2 hours later at 7pm I new the gig was up, and that I should make my way to one of the campgrounds for the night. I had finally been able to relax in the shade of that tree by the side of the road. In fact I was horizontal in the dirt, not caring a bit I was so tired. I made some cold-soak Backpackers Pantry pasta and played solitare on my phone, just content to not be moving.

But I wouldn’t get a hitch tonight. I walked back to McCormack campground, got a spot, took a shower wearing all my clothes, and dripped dry in the hot evening night. I was surrounded by RVs and looked quite silly as I spread out my Tyvek and cowboy camped. No car, no RV, no tent. Just me and the dirt.

​Day 11 – 11 miles – 2 mile hike, 9 river miles  (152.8 total)

I slept well despite being visited by some animal in the night. I think it might have been a raccoon after all the dead fish.

After my coffee I loaded my boat and started paddling the last few miles to the take out. I soon came upon Willow Creek where the trail meets the reservoir. I saw where hikers will skirt the edge of the water, and after Spring Creek will need to climb up about 100′ to avoid some pretty steep terrain along the water. Spring Creek even had a little trickle in it.

Gittin it done!

Gittin it done!

I got to the boat ramp just as the only car in sight was leaving. I took the next hour to transition to my hiking gear and fill up my 5 liters of water. Just as I was leaving a pickup comes in and pulls over. Ross and his friend were out for a drive, and we chatted for a few minutes about my trip and the incredible history of the area. They gave me a bottle of cold water before they left, thanks guys!

Trash cans at Lesley Gulch! It's the little things...

Trash cans at Lesley Gulch! It’s the little things…

As I walked up the road I immediately began second guessing my plan to hike the remaining 30 miles to the end. It was hot. So hot that I thought I might get myself in trouble. Heat exhaustion, heat stroke…I didn’t like my chances.

I sat down on the side of the road trying to decide what to do. Night hike? Paddle to the end? Get a ride out? Being this close to the end I’m mentally almost checked out. Packing up here would be so easy…but I’m so close. What to do…

After a long break I decided to go back to the water and inflate my boat and paddle to the end point. As I was walking back to the boat launch a truck pulled over and asked if I wanted a ride. “Sure!” I said, relieved to not have to walk that hot mile again. I hopped in the back of their pick up and they drop me off at the sheltered picnic tables where I would repack my boat. The couple was from Portland and were very curious about the Oregon Desert Trail and in fact they had seen the Patagonia article that Jeff Browning had written about running this section. I’m pretty sure they came out here because of that article and they loved the Owyhee region so much that they thought they would bring their kids here next year instead of Zion as they had originally planned. They were true trail angels and left me with a cold Gatorade and can of Guinness for later.

I had been hesitant to paddle in Lake Owyhee because paddling flat water in the packcraft is not very efficient, but I seem to do OK on the slow river this week, and given it was so hot out this seemed like the best decision.

I texted Kirk the change of plans and I paddled for a few hours. When the wind began to pick up I pulled over and made camp. The water levels are about 15 feet below where you can tell they normally are. There are less dead fish but I still had to flip a few away from my camp spot. The water has a filmy green algae floating in it, and since I’ve been swimming frequently now I smell like algae and dead fish too.

The best part of the day was when that hot hot sun set.

The best part of the day was when that hot hot sun set.

I not sure how many miles it is to the end at the Indians Springs campground but I’ve been using the tracking function on my gaia gps app so I should know when I get there. I’m guessing it’s about 20 miles from where I am. Kirk later texting me that it was over 100 degrees out. No wonder if feels so bloody hot. I’m really glad I decided not to hike; it would have been a nightmare. I hope Christof who is trying to run the trail right now is doing okay in the heat. I’ve been thinking about him a lot out here; when I was in Rome he was approximately halfway, but its been much hotter since then. I’m looking forwad to finding out how he’s doing. And getting in some air conditioning.
Update: Christof finished his run of the trail on July 29! 18 days, 750 miles. 

​Day 10 – 24 miles (141.8 total)

I pulled over early this morning to look for some pictographs I knew were in the area and found some faint images. I’ve heard people were living in the Owyhee region from 11,000 to 12,000 years ago. Makes our modern age feel like a blip on that scale. I also passed an abandoned ranch. I’m sure life must have been hard out here but I could totally see the appeal.

When I got to Greely Bar I went in search of the hotsprings that are supposed to be there, but they were quite shallow and with the heat of the day already coming on I just didn’t feel like getting in. The rocks were amazing. All the way to Birch Creek they were towering and magistic.


I thought I might see people at the Birch Creek takout, but there was only one group there, and they didn’t act real curious. Most river trips take out here as the Lesley Gulch takeout another 19 miles ahead can be half slack water when the Owyhee reservoir is full. 

I had on and off current until the end, and enjoyed a nice mellow float while listening to some podcasts like All Songs Considered, Reply All, Invisibila and Tim Ferris.
Kirk told me about some more hotsprings about 5 miles from the takeout, and while I didn’t think I would make it that far today,  I found myself there by 5pm. There wasn’t much to find, and the area had been trampled by cows. To top it off there were dead fish everywhere. The water levels were low, and must have fallen fast because rotting fish were beached everywhere. Yuck. I shouldn’t have come so far because now I’m left camping in this mess. I had entered the low reservoir and there is no paddling up stream!

I went around the corner and tried somewhere less offensive to camp. Ugg.

View from camp


Only about 4 miles to Lesley Gulch where I will transition back to hiking for the final 30 miles to the end of the Oregon Desert Trail and my second section of the trail!

​Day 9 – 19 miles (117.8 total)

It’s been a full moon this week, and even though I haven’t set up my tarp once, I’ve been using my umbrella/bug condom combo so I’ve been able to sleep. It’s so bright out I would be much more tired without it.

On the river maps I’m using (Jefferson from work let me borrow his copy), there are a few notes about cultural sites, and this morning I took some time to look for the Lambert Inscription, not knowing exactly what it was, but didn’t find anything. JJ marked a bunch of spots that I’ll pass tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to that.

I found some hotsprings near Lambert Rocks, but they were too hot for me. Where one spilled out into the river I was able to soak there for a few minutes with the help of some cooler river water mixed in. Then I floated by the Chalk Basin. Wow!! Stunning views! And it would keep getting better.

I lunched after Whistling Bird rapid, and then started into the Iron Point area. Towering walls of rock squeezed in on both sides of the river. It was hard to take it all in. Amazing. I think the Owyhee is my favorite river I’ve ever floated. Its that good.

After a few more rapids I made camp where the landscape opens up again. There’s also an old road bed river right that I’m going to make an alternate so hikers can get down by the water again.

I’m make much more progress on the river than I thought I would, might finish up this section a little early!

​Day 8 – 21 Miles – 1 mile hike, 20 river miles (98.8 total)

I forgot to include the 1/2 mile walk from Rome launch to Rome Station, and since I had to walk it back this morning and I don’t want to “skip” a mile I’ve included it today.

I got myself a cup of coffee from the cafe to drink while I was packing up, and set about putting another 7 days of resupply in my pack. I think that’s the heaviest thing I’m carrying out here-all the food. Then I want back to the cafe for breakfast and ordered a much too big plate of biscuits and gravy, eggs and sausage. I definitely don’t have hiker hunger, but sometime I forget!

Once I launched back on the river it was a flat slow 5 miles to get back to the canyon. It was already HOT and it’s supposed to get up to 100 today! Thank goodness for the river.

To pick it up, or not to pick it up…have I been on the river long enough?


It was a relief to be back in the towering rock walls, and was delighted to see numerous springs dumping fresh water into the river. There were so many springs I think it’s made a big difference in the water levels. The CFS at Rome was 135, but the rapids all have enough water to run, the boney pointy rocks are covered up for the most part, and there seems to be more push to the water. 

There’s gotta be more water now

Don’t know? I don’t think there is a river gage below Rome, so who knows. What it made for though were easy and smooth spots to run the numerous Class III rapids, and bigger wave trains in the riffles. I think I’m moving along quicker too. It’s more of a 3 mile an hour river now (with paddling). So much so that I made 20 miles by 5pm. That’s a lot espically since I didn’t get started until 8:30.

I’ve seen and heard a lot of fish suckling on rocks today. I have no idea why.
 I’ll be floating and he a sucking noise, and look over to see a big fish with its mouth on a rock by the shore. They are slurping off something delicious I guess!

Since I had a relatively early camp, I pulled out a book I bought in Rome, In Times Past by Hazel Fretwell-Johnson about the history of the Jordan Creek Area, or the area around Rome. Turns out the settlers here had some of the bloodiest skirmishes of all the west with the Native Americans here. It’s fascinating. I should pass some pictographs and other archeological sites tomorrow…looking forward to it!


I also packed out a can of wine to enjoy tonight. Nothing but the finest on the Owyhee!