Every April, the Wet Planet team embarks on a multi-day river adventure to bring the staff together and to celebrate a new rafting and kayaking season.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of multi-day river adventures? Paradise. What’s a close second? Logistics. So much goes into a multi-day river trip. And, the more days and more people on the trip make it even more involved. This year’s staff trip was a four-day, three-night trip with nineteen people.
This year, all involved were experienced multi-day river runners. Jobs were accomplished quickly and efficiently and each necessary task had more than enough help to get it done. The team was so competent that I wish I could have seen this trip from the eyes of a newcomer to multi-days because our crew was amazing to watch, even from my experienced perspective.
This year, we boated the Owyhee River. The Owyhee, which is tough to get on because water levels don’t always rise enough to run the river every spring, is at a very healthy flow this year. Going into the spring season, the depth of snow in the Owyhee River drainage was at 130% of its average. When we ran it, the flow was about 6,500 cubic feet per second (cfs). The only other time I’ve run this stretch was last spring at about 550 cfs — a totally different experience.
A Hidden Rafting Gem in Southeast Oregon
The Owyhee River Canyon is an amazing hidden gem in eastern Oregon. The canyon is difficult to access without a raft or kayak, and because it is especially difficult to catch it at the right water level, this river adventure is challenging to check off your list. The trip starts in the farmlands of tiny Rome, Oregon, and becomes more remote and exponentially more beautiful as you float. The weather in the Canyon can be seventy degrees and sunny one hour and forty degrees and hailing the next.
We arrived in Rome around 4:00pm and had a few options on what to do once we unloaded; we could camp for the night or head downstream until we found an unclaimed campsite. Our choice depended a bit on a storm that was due to arrive in the next couple of hours. The team made the correct decision to set up camp at the boat ramp. Just as we finished rigging the rafts and setting up the kitchen and our tents, a tremendous storm rolled in, thunder, lightning and torrential rain included. We were all happy to be hunkered down under our NRS river wing. We cooked a delicious pasta Bolognese dinner with a wonderful Caesar salad: thank you Giani and Nicole, our multi-day meal gurus.
Beautiful Camping and Hiking
In the morning we enjoyed a pancake breakfast and launched our trip. The first five miles are mostly flat water through farmlands. Then, as you navigate the next five miles, the river constricts, the flow picks up and the landscape begins to change. That day, we floated about twenty-two and a half miles to Ryegrass camp, which neighbors a hot spring! We set up camp and leisurely basked in the afternoon sun. Amazing. Some of the crew went for short hikes, while some visited the hot springs. It was Ethan’s birthday, so we sang Happy Birthday and had a great evening.
I went for a hike with our media manager, Kat Green. It’s funny, when you look at a desert landscape from afar it’s easy to think that the land is barren and uninhabitable, however that’s far from the truth. When you start walking away from camp and into the sagebrush, you’re instantly immersed in the lively, buzzing eco-system. As you hike along the trails that crisscross and merge with the game trails of bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyote, and even bobcats, you feel alive and free. We followed paw tracks that we could not identify, took in views and watched other groups from our crew meandering even farther from camp. We returned from our hike just in time for the final preparations of a special new dinner recipe, an Ethiopian doro wat curry chicken dish, followed by a spicy double-layer chocolate cake. We sat around the campfire, told jokes and stories, got to know one another and caught up with old friends. Afterward, some folks headed for a late evening soak in the hot springs, while others slept under the stars.
1000-Foot Deep Green Dragon Canyon
Our second day on the river was absolutely mesmerizing. We paddled and rowed twenty miles through the 1000-foot walls of Green Dragon Canyon amid big, continuous wave trains and fun, technical rapids like Whistling Bird, Squeeze, Montgomery, and Nuisance. At one point, I looked at the cliffs high above my head and saw a golden eagle’s nest that looked like it could hold a Volkswagen. When you’re gazing up the several-hundred-foot walls, you instantly feel connected with the canyon, connected with the people around you and connected with yourself.
Devil’s Tower, Oregon
Our second night we camped at Bobcat, a small camp with quality views and access to unreal evening hiking. I went on an adventure with Kat, Nick, Ethan and Seamus which included taking a raft from camp and ferrying across the river to explore Devil’s Tower, the approximately 500-foot-tall butte.
Reaching the top, we took in spectacular views upstream and downstream until close to sunset. That night we savored Dutch oven lasagna and a Dutch oven pineapple upside cake for dessert.
The next morning was relaxing and sunny. The remaining seven or so miles were blissful, sun-soaked stretches of fun small rapids and awe-inspiring rock formations. As with all river trips, I wanted to stretch every remaining mile in hopes to delay arriving at the take-out.
I appreciate that Wet Planet sends our staff on a multi-day trip every spring. In my opinion, there’s nothing like a river trip to bring together any group of people. Whether you’re chatting around the campfire, doing dishes as a team, or floating through a rapid, to me, these are the times that stories stick with you and friendships grow stronger than anywhere else.
Wet Planet offers 5-day Owyhee River trips every May, water levels depending. For more information about the trip, click here.
Author Mikey Goyette leads Wet Planet’s Marketing team. When he’s not in the office, you can find him in his kayak on the river, or on the river bank playing Spike Ball.