LOWER OWYHEE RIVER RAFTING

The “Grand Canyon” of Oregon

DIFFICULTY LEVEL

Beginner/Family-Friendly

BEST TIME TO GO

April-May

TRIPS AVAILABLE

River Trip List

Multi-Day
[ VIEW TRIPS ]

MEETING POINT

Rome, OR
[ MAP ]

DRIVE TIME

Portland = 7 hrs
Bend = 3 hr 45 mins
Seattle = 9 hrs

Lower Owyhee River Rafting

Rafting on the Lower Owyhee River is likely our absolute favorite river trip that we run! The scenery is truly mesmerizing and at times hard to believe that this canyon is in Oregon and not the desert Southwest.

Hot Springs, amazing side-hikes, pure tranquility, historical and native American petroglyphs will all welcome the Owyhee River adventurer.

The Lower section of the Owyhee River features some of the most unique, varied, and beautiful landscapes of the entire river system. It is said that each mile you travel down this section of the Owyhee you travel back 100,000 years in geological time.

The Owyhee River flows through one of the most remote regions in North America. The Canyon-lands of the Owyhee River system is one of the largest unspoiled areas around. The Owyhee River greets one with impressive canyons that rise as much as two-thousand feet above the rivers’ edge. This river has embraced some of the most spectacular, rugged and little known country in the states.

The Owyhee River lies in the southeastern corner of Oregon. On an Owyhee trip one may encounter a band of California bighorn sheep, a dozen kinds of wildflowers, an unexpected waterfall or one of the area’s numerous hot springs. One may also see some of the endangered species that reside in this area, like the peregrine falcon. Other wildlife that may be seen are the pronghorn antelope, elk, deer, cougars, sage grouse, eagles and many others.

The Bureau of Land Management in the area describes the Owyhee region as “The most rugged, remote and least known high desert canyon complexes in North America, the Owyhee Canyonlands are also perhaps the most spectacular.”  The Main stem Owyhee was federally designated as Wild and Scenic in 1984 and was additionally listed as an Oregon Scenic Waterway in 1970.  This region is so remote that the entire Owyhee Canyonlands encompass over 5 million acres with just 3 paved roads!

The human history in this area stems back to more than twelve-thousand years ago.  The Owyhee Canyonlands have been a home to Native Americans for thousands of years. Evidence of their existence can be found in the many pictographs, petroglyphs and artifacts that were left behind from them. Since the white man settled this area more than two-hundred years ago, agriculture and grazing had been abundant for many years. Still today, one may spend hours exploring side canyons, old ranchers cabins and of course, rewarding themselves with hot springs soak! The Owyhee River was named by Peter Skene Ogden in 1819 when two of his fellow trappers were killed. The river was named after them and the word ‘Owyhee’ is a 19th century spelling for Hawaii.

The many canyons of the Owyhee River system are some of the most awe-inspiring & sensational landscapes in Oregon. The multi-colored cliff walls often rise over a thousand feet from the edge of the river.  The canyon rims are often eroded with many colossal spires, while in other areas the canyon calls reach towards the sky displaying a variety of stunning colors.  There are numerous side canyons that offer a mysterious element of adventure as they twist out of sight.

Some of the most notable landscapes include the Iron Point Gorge, waterwheels, Sentinel Canyon, Montgomery Gorge, Mahogany Mountains, Weeping Wall, Rustler’s Cabin, Bogus Creek Falls, Pruitt’s Castle and the Chalk Basin/Lambert Rocks. The many great scenic aspects of this run are accompanied with petroglyph fields, honeycomb cliffs, fossils, hot springs and scrumptious meals. These alone will help create some of the fondest memories you will ever have. Exciting rapids like Whistling Bird, Montgomery, Artillery, Bull’s Eye, Rock Dam, Rock Trap, Upset and many more will eagerly challenge you!

The Lower Owyhee is only runnable from late March through early June!  This is a very special area of Oregon that is truly like no other.  We highly encourage that you spend a few extra days on either end of your trip to visit some of the area’s other gems.  A few of our favorites include: Crane Hot Springs, Jordan Craters, Pillars of Rome, Leslie Gulch, Succor Creek & Silver City.

Multi-day trips are 4 days in length with 2021 launch dates set for Thursday. You will arrive at the BLM launch site/campground in Rome, Oregon by 9am, Pacific Time, the Thursday of your river trip. You’ll reach the take-out by early Sunday afternoon, where your car will be waiting for you.
The age minimum for this trip is 8 years old. The physical and mental criteria for eligibility to participate on any River Drifters river trip can be found on our Eligibility Criteria page.

DAY 1: Arrive at the BLM launch site/campground in Rome, Oregon by 9am, Pacific Time. Please eat breakfast before arriving. You’ll get outfitted with a wet suit, PFD, splash jacket and waterproof dry bag (provided by River Drifters), and use the restroom, etc. Our guides will give a safety talk and provide instructions for the basic paddle strokes you will need for your trip. We’ll have rafts as well as inflatable kayaks. After the safety talk, we’ll launch onto the river! After a couple of hours on the river, the group will stop for a lunch of sandwiches, fresh fruits and veggies, cookies and lemonade. Then it’s back on the water until we reach camp around 4:30pm – 5pm. Hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be provided shortly after arrival to camp. You’ll set up your tent, go for a hike or relax by the river until dinner is served about 7pm. Note, you are responsible for arriving in Rome by 9am on the day your trip begins.

DAYS 2-3: You’ll wake up to coffee brewing by 8am while your guides are busy making a healthy and hardy breakfast. After breakfast, the group will break down camp and hit the water by about 10am. The group will stop around 1pm for lunch, and possibly take a hike or a soak in a hot spring. Camp and dinner routine is the same as Day 1.

DAY 4: Breakfast is served about 8am. The group will break down camp and hit the water by about 10am. You’ll reach the take-out by early afternoon, where your car will be waiting for you. You’ll return your wetsuit, PFD, dry bag and any other River Drifters gear before changing and heading home.

Check out our itineraries (linked below on the Trip Details) for details on sanitation, meals, what to wear, etc.

Our guides are accomplished in outdoor skills, trained in first aid, CPR and river rescue, and knowledgeable about the natural and cultural history of the area. They are fun, interesting people who have a passion for rivers and guiding. If you have questions about rafting or the unique features of the Deschutes River, ask and they will be happy to share what they know.

During the summertime, the weather in Eastern Oregon is very warm and mostly dry. However, you must be prepared for rain and wind every season. In the trip itinerary, there is a chart of average temperatures and rainfall in Eastern Oregon during the rafting season.

Prior to packing for your trip, we recommend that you check the forecast.

View the trip itinerary for a chart of average temperatures and rainfall in the Rome, OR area during the rafting season.

  • Group rafting gear, first aid kits, and some personal gear, including wet suit and splash jacket.
  • All on-river meals.
  • Camp chairs.
  • Waterproof dry bags for your personal gear (16” diameter x 33” tall).
  • Professional, well-trained guides.

CLOTHING: One pair of quick-drying shorts and two t-shirts (wool or synthetic are best, but cotton is OK for camp). • Long-sleeved synthetic shirt and hat for sun protection. • Swimsuit. • Old pair of tennis shoes, neoprene booties with soles or sandals (closed-toed, such as Keen, are recommended). • Camp shoes – lightweight tennis shoes, Crocs, sandals, etc. • Long pants, either nylon or fleece depending on preference. • A fleece or down vest, sweater or jacket. • Wool or synthetic long underwear top and bottom. • Raincoat and pants. • Two pairs of underwear. • Two pairs of wool or synthetic socks. • Beanie and lightweight gloves (in spring and fall). • Change of clothes for drive home.

GEAR: Sleeping bag (with waterproof stuff sack) and sleeping pad. • Tent. • Sunglasses and/or prescription eyeglasses or contacts (plus spare sets). • Sunglass strap for both sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses (we sell these in our shop). • Flashlight, spare bulb and spare batteries. • Personal water bottle with strap or carabineer for attaching to boat. Note, a rental sleeping package is available from our office. This package includes a tent, sleeping pad and sleeping bag.

PERSONAL ITEMS: Waterproof sunscreen and lip balm (with a SPF of 20 or greater). • Small towel. • Personal toiletries (bring only what you need). • Personal medications, feminine hygiene supplies, etc.

OPTIONAL: Bike gloves to protect hands while paddling. • Small zip lock bags for organizing gear. • Fishing equipment and license. • Book/journal/pen. • Waterproof camera. • Small daypack. • Binoculars. • Dramamine (if prone to car sickness). • Insect repellent. • Personal snacks. (We will bring plenty.)

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Our guides work very hard throughout the season to ensure that guests have an enjoyable trip. As such, tips are very much appreciated by our guides. Tips normally range from 10% of the trip cost. How much you tip should depend on your satisfaction with your trip and your financial means. Most people tip the lead guide, who will split the money equally among the crew.
Usually, the Lower Owyhee is perfect for the whole family. Kids age 8 and older are allowed to join Owyhee multi-day trips. A child’s maturity level would be a greater factor than his or her age. Please call us to discuss your situation.
River Drifters does not furnish, sell or give away alcohol of any kind during our trips. If desired, you may bring your own alcohol in non-glass containers and we will transport it to camp for you. Please drink in moderation. Note, we do not allow alcohol on any youth trips.
We recommend the following local lodging:

  • Jordan Valley – Basque Motel (541) 586-2244
  • Rome – Rome Cafe (541) 586-2295 (modest cabins)
  • Burns – Burns Best Inn (541) 573-5295

Local Camping:

  • Crane Hot Springs (541) 493-2312
  • BLM Launch Site in Rome
Rome Station, OR 541-586-2295 (no website)
Ticks, snakes and scorpions all reside in southeastern Oregon. There is poison oak in the Owyhee Canyon.
  • The Owyhee Journals – Bonnie Olin (arguably the Owyhee’s biggest advocate). Phone: (541) 998-1291
  • Owyhee Canyonlands – Hiking guide by Steve Stuebner & Mark Lisk (2013). Phone: (208) 484-0295
  • Owyhee & Bruneau River Boating Guide (Google that search and print or download the PDF)

Please feel free to contact our office at 1-800-972-0430. Once on the river, our experienced and knowledgeable guides will be happy to answer any questions you have. We welcome suggestions about how we can make your next experience on the river an even better one!

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

Praised as the ‘Grand Canyon of Oregon’ in the most remote area of the lower 48 states.

Family-friendly, multi-day river trip within nationally recognized canyonlands featuring side hikes, canyons, wildlife, and natural hot springs.

Jaw-dropping rock spires, hoodoos, and vistas create a mesmerizing experience for those privileged to experience the natural beauty of this place.

Plentiful relaxation with inspiring bird watching, wildflowers hikes, and yoga, painting, or photography options galore.

Proximity to Boise, Idaho for must-see places in the area: Leslie Gulch, Jordan Craters, Silver City, Pillars of Rome, Alvord Desert, The Steens Mountains

Lower Owyhee River Rafting Trips ….
Owyhee River Rafting

Lower Owyhee River Four-Day

Season: April - May
Duration: 4 Days, 3 Nights
Length: 39 miles
Price: $750-825
Rapids: I-IV
Skill Level: Family friendly
Age Minimum: 8
Download Trip Itinerary

Are you ready for your rafting adventure on the Owyhee River?

BOOK NOW!