LOWER OWYHEE RIVER MULTI-DAY RAFTING TRIPS

Praised as the ‘Grand Canyon of Oregon’!

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 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 Essential Eligibility Criteria for participation page.

River Drifters will provide all the necessary gear to make your trip enjoyable, relaxing and most importantly, hassle free! Basically the only things you need to bring are a tent, sleeping bag and pad, clothes, personal items and we take care of the rest! View our Equipment List on this page for a comprehensive personal gear list. Rentals of tents and sleeping bags/pads are available to assist those who don’t have any.

Please visit our cancellation policy page for full details on cancellations, trip/date changes, and refunds.

MULTI-DAY TRIP DETAILS AND ITINERARY

Meeting Location:

BLM Launch Site in Rome, Oregon
Southeast of the Hwy 95 Bridge over the Owyhee River
(BLM Launch Site can be found in Google Maps)

Meeting Time:

9:00 am the day of your launch date

Return Time:

Between 1:30 and 2:00 pm on your last day

Getting Here:

Rome is about 1.5 hours from Burns, 2 hours from Boise, 4.5 hours from Bend, and 6.5 hours from Portland. We recommend choosing a lodging option in Burns, Jordan Valley (30 minutes from Rome), Boise or a nearby bedroom community, or camping at the BLM Launch Site/Campground the night before the first day of the trip. Please print out driving directions before leaving home, as there is little to no cell service on many of the routes to Rome.

Vehicle Shuttle

Your vehicle can be shuttled to the take-out at Birch Creek by a shuttle service (recommended) or guests can take the River Drifters van back to Rome from the take-out on the last day of the trip. Please note vehicles must have AWD or 4×4 drive and a full tank of gas to be shuttled to the take-out. The closest gas stations are the Rome Station or in Jordan Valley.

We’ll meet you at 9:00 am on the morning of the first day your trip begins at the BLM launch site in Rome, Oregon (just southeast of the Hwy 95 bridge over the Owyhee River, 800/972-0430). At the pre-trip meeting we will give you your waterproof bags, go over final trip logistics and answer any last minute questions. You will leave your vehicles and keys in the secure parking area. At the conclusion of the trip your vehicle can be shuttled to the take-out at Birch Creek by a shuttle service (recommended) or guests can take the River Drifters van back to Rome from the take-out on the last day of the trip. Please note vehicles must have AWD or 4×4 drive and a full tank of gas to be shuttled to the take-out. The closest gas stations are the Rome Station or in Jordan Valley.

Approximate Travel Times

From Portland Area: 6.5 hours
From Bend: 4 hours
From Boise: 2 hours

Driving Directions from Portland

Access I-84 Eastbound. In Gresham or Troutdale access US-26 East towards Government Camp and Mt. Hood. Continue on US-26 to Madras, Oregon. In Madras take a slight left to continue on US-26 E towards Prineville. In Prineville, take a right onto OR-126 W. In approximately 2.3 miles, take the second exit at the traffic circle onto Tom McCall Road. In 0.3 miles take a left onto SW Millican Rd. Continue on SW Millican Rd for approximately 30 miles until it intersects with US-20. Turn left onto US-20 East towards Burns. In Burns continue straight on E Monroe St for 0.5 miles until it turns into OR-78 East. Continue on US-78 E for approximately 90 miles and then take a slight left on US-95 North. After driving through the town of Rome on US-95, just after passing over the Owyhee River take the first right turn. The BLM Launch Site is a few hundred yards at the end of that road.

Driving Directions from Bend

Access US-20 East towards Burns. In Burns continue straight on E Monroe St for 0.5 miles until it turns into OR-78 East. Continue on US-78 E for approximately 90 miles and then take a slight left on US-95 North. After driving through the town of Rome on US-95, just after passing over the Owyhee River take the first right turn. The BLM Launch Site is a few hundred yards at the end of that road.

Driving Directions from Boise

Access I-84 West. Take exit 33 for ID-55 toward Nampa/Marsing. Turn right onto ID-55/W Karcher Rd. Just pass Marsing, turn left onto US-95 South. In approximately 76.5 miles, take a left turn onto a road just before passing over the Owyhee River. The BLM Launch Site is a few hundred yards at the end of that road.

Pre-trip Checklist
  • Complete online registration
  • Complete online waiver
  • Plan for the unexpected (travel insurance)
  • Gather and pack your gear
What we provide
  • Group rafting gear – rafts, paddles, & first aid kits
  • Optional – single or tandem inflatable kayaks
  • Personal rafting gear – PFD (personal flotation device), splash jacket & wetsuit (cooler weather trips), & helmet (optional)
  • Transportation to & from the river
  • All on-river meals, snacks, & beverages
  • Waterproof dry bag for personal gear (16” x 33”)
  • All camp cooking & kitchen supplies, including camp chairs
  • Rent for additional fee – tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad
What you are responsible for
  • Getting to the meet location in Rome
  • Meals and lodging before and after your trip, including breakfast the first day of your trip
  • Personal clothing and toiletries (see equipment list)
  • Sleeping bags and tents (these items can be rented from River Drifters – see equipment list)
  • Guides gratuities (see below)
Professional Tips

Wetsuits and splash jackets are often recommended for spring and fall trips, and for guests spending time in inflatable kayaks. The wetsuits are 2-3ml “Farmer John” style, which is combined with a splash jacket to provide full-body coverage. Wetsuits and splash jackets are suggested when the air temperature is 75°F or cooler, however children and individuals who get cold easily may want these additional layers when the air temperature is forecasted to be between 75°F to 80°F. Wetsuits and splash jackets are provided by River Drifters and our guides will issue out this gear on cooler weather trips or upon request.

Fleece is a generic term for a spun, polyester fabric developed for outdoor use. It is thick and fluffy and does not absorb water, making it ideal insulation on a river trip. It is commonly called Polartec or Polar Fleece. Polypropylene is a thinner, stretchier, woven variation used predominantly for long underwear. Any polypropylene long underwear will work; heavyweight is the most versatile.

Layering your clothing is an effective way to adjust to the daily weather changes that you may encounter. A light polypropylene layer under a heavy fleece top under a rain shell will get you going on the chilliest of mornings and allow you to shed layers as the day warms up.

One of the handiest things to bring on a trip is a sarong. Versatile, comfortable and colorful, sarongs get used for quick clothing changes, beach throws, sun screens and dinner celebrations.

Dry-bags are great for keeping things dry but are somewhat awkward for packing and living out of, (they are tall and narrow with a small opening at the top). Compact sleeping bags are much more convenient, and small stuff sacks, pillow cases or zip-lock bags are helpful for dividing up your stuff inside the bag. Trying to put your entire duffel bag or luggage into the dry-bag never seems to work.

Lodging
  • Basque Motel (Jordan Valley) | 541-586-2244
  • Rome Station/Motel (Modest cabins in Rome) | 541-586-2295
  • Burns Best Inn (Burns) | 541-573-5295
Camping
  • Crane Hot Springs (Burns) | 541-493-2312
  • BLM Launch Site/Campground in Rome
Day 1:

Check-In: Please arrive at the BLM launch site in Rome, Oregon by 9am, Pacific Time (Note- Rome, Or. is in Standard Mountain Time). Please eat breakfast before arriving at the put-in. Our guides will distribute waterproof dry bags to pack personal belongings, as well as outfit you with a PFD, wetsuit, and splash jacket. Any clothing or items you want during the day will be packed in a separate, smaller dry bag. Your guides will answer any last-minute questions and help ensure your car is ready for the shuttle to the take-out if applicable. Our guides will put the finishing touches on packing, give a safety talk, and provide instructions for the paddle strokes you will need for your trip. Then it’s time to get on the river!

On the River: Fun whitewater, peaceful calms, and magnificent scenery will fill your senses from the moment the trip launches. Guests can take turns trying out and paddling inflatable kayaks. About midday the group will stop for a riverside lunch. Then it’s back on the water until we reach camp around 4:30pm – 5pm.

At Camp: 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 at about 7pm.

Day 2 & 3:

Morning Time: You’ll wake up to coffee brewing by 8am while your guides are busy making a healthy & hearty breakfast. After breakfast, the group will break down camp & hit the water between 9am and 10am.

On the River & At Camp: The river continues to provide incredible whitewater, stunning scenery, wildlife viewing opportunities, and you will experience first-hand why the Owyhee River is called the Grand Canyon of Oregon. The group will stop midday for lunch and possibly take a hike or soak in a hot spring. In the late afternoon we arrive at another beautiful campsite. The early evening hours provide time to fish, hike, read a book, enjoy happy hour snacks & beverages, or take a nap. Dinner is prepared & served by your guides around 7pm.

Last Day:

Breakfast and morning beverages are served about 8am. After the group breaks down camp and the rafts are reloaded, we float the final stretch of river, enjoy lunch on the banks of this magical river, and reach the take-out, Birch Creek, in the early afternoon. Guests will return any River Drifters issued equipment or gear, change into dry clothes, and salute to a great trip. Guests will either have their personal vehicles shuttled to the take-out (arranged ahead of time) or take a River Drifters vehicle back to Rome.

Please keep in mind that every trip is different, as weather, water flow, campsites, and group dynamics all influence trip pace.

The weather in southeastern Oregon in the spring can be extreme and change quickly. With elevations ranging from 2600’-3600’, temperature swings can vary as much as 40 degrees or more during the day. Be prepared for sun, rain, wind, and even snow. Below is a chart of average temperatures and rainfall in southeastern Oregon during the spring. When planning and packing for your rafting trip please check the weather forecast, including daytime and nighttime temperatures.

April May June
Avg Day 73°F 73°F 81°F
Avg Night 40°F 43°F 46°F
Rainfall 1″ 0.75″ 0.5″
Wetsuits and splash jackets are often recommended for spring and fall trips, and for guests spending time in inflatable kayaks. The wetsuits are 2-3ml “Farmer John” style, which is combined with a splash jacket to provide full-body coverage. Wetsuits and splash jackets are suggested when the air temperature is 75°F or cooler, however children and individuals who get cold easily may want these additional layers when the air temperature is forecasted to be between 75°F to 80°F. Wetsuits and splash jackets are provided by River Drifters and our guides will issue out this gear on cooler weather trips or upon request.

We primarily use paddle rafts but sometimes we also use oar-paddle combination rafts. Everyone should come expecting to be active participants in the trip regardless of which type of raft you end up in. If there are any physical limitations, please reach out to us so that we can make sure to accommodate any adjustments you will need.

Paddle Rafts

Paddle rafts are 13 to 15 feet long and carry between 4 and 8 paddlers who actively paddle through the rapids and down the river. Everyone has a paddle, sits on the outer tube of the raft and follows the commands of the paddle guide who sits in the rear.

Oar-Paddle Combo

Oar-paddle combination rafts are 13 to 15 feet long and are configured so that four or six paddlers can assist a guide who rows the raft using oars.

Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kayaks are 10 – 12 feet long and are paddled by 1 person using double-bladed paddles. They are fairly stable, require no previous experience and allow you to feel the thrill of independently paddling the river.

Please note that we do not guarantee space in inflatable kayaks. We will bring a few, but if there are more people who wish to ride in these boats than there are spaces, we will rotate so that everyone gets a chance to participate.

Oar Rafts

Oar rafts are 15 feet long, and carry all of the overnight gear. They are rowed by a guide using oars attached to a metal frame. The guide will pace ahead of the trip to be able to claim and set up the best campsite available while you enjoy the river and views.

All meals, including kid-friendly options, are supplied by River Drifters, and prepared by your guides during the trip. Meals include a wide variety of fresh meats, cheeses, grains, fruits, and vegetables. We also provide plenty of snacks and water throughout the trip. Our online registration gives guests an opportunity to share dietary needs or allergies with us prior to your trip. We ask that registration is completed at least one week before your trip so we can do our best to accommodate any needs or restrictions. Please give us a call with any specific questions about meals.

A typical day on the water includes five to eight hours of rafting, a lunch break, side excursions, and wildlife viewing. Evenings are a great time to go hiking, toss the Frisbee, read a book, take a nap, or relax by the river. Keep in mind that every trip is different, as the weather, water flow, campsites, and group dynamics all influence the trip pace and itinerary.

There are toilet facilities at the put-in in Rome and take-out at Birch Creek, and once on the river an approved portable toilet is used. The portable toilet is set-up at camp as well as when needed during the day. Our guides will ensure it is set up in a private location and discuss its use and the “key” system with guests.

River Drifters practices Leave No Trace ethics, meaning we pack out all trash (including food scraps) and use only biodegradable soap for washing dishes. We expect our guests to help us adhere to Leave No Trace practices by ensuring no trash or food scraps are discarded into or along the river or left behind at camp. If you have any questions about personal sanitation, please don’t hesitate to ask your guide or give our office a call.

If you truly enjoy your trip, tipping is a great way to show your appreciation. Tipping is optional and personal, but since a lot of people ask, a customary amount is between 10 and 15 percent of the trip cost. Tips can be given to the Lead Guide who will share them with the entire crew. And the entire crew will appreciate them and put them to good use. (And thank you.)

If you still have questions, please feel free to call us (800-972-0430) or e-mail us (office@riverdrifters.net). We love to talk about our trips!

EQUIPMENT LIST

Your comfort is our top priority. River Drifters handles all the trip logistics, provides all the necessary camping provisions and rafting gear, and makes sure that you have professional, experienced, and well-trained guides. Please read through and adhere to our packing recommendations as it improves your comfort while on the river and at camp. If you have any questions about the gear or packing list, please call our office at 800-972-0430.

Come prepared for challenging weather conditions. Do not skimp on this list.

CAMP ITEMS

These will be packed in your dry bag and will generally not be available during the day.

  • Compact sleeping bag*, (down or synthetic, rated to 30 degrees). Available to rent, see below.
  • Closed-cell foam or self-inflating sleeping pad*, (Thermarest, or Paco Pad). Available to rent, see below.
  • Sleeping bag liner* (will add warmth on cold nights)
  • Compact, lightweight tent*, (free-standing preferred, no wall tents please) or small tarp or ground cloth. Available to rent, see below.
  • Your favorite pillow (an extra pillow-case is handy for organizing stuff in your bag).
  • Changes of clothing (versatile pants and shirts, cotton is fine)
  • Camp shoes. Our guides wear flip-flops or lightweight trail-running shoes.
  • Small towel, soap and shampoo (Campsuds and Dr. Bronner’s seem to be the most environmentally friendly; Ivory is fine).
  • Personal hygiene items, including medicine, insect repellent, dry-skin lotion, etc. Please bring double the amount needed of any essential medicine.
  • Warm jacket, (thick fleece is great – will work on-river as well – or compact/down coat).
  • Rain gear, jacket for sure, rain pants recommended (depending on the time of year and forecast)
  • Small flashlight with extra batteries, (headlamps are great).
  • Book, sketch pad, journal, etc.
RIVER ITEMS

These will be worn, or packed in your personal dry-pack and will be accessible during the day

  • Base layer (comfort): swimsuit and polypro pants/tights and long-sleeved polypropylene shirt.
  • Insulation layer (warmth): thick fleece top, (pullovers work best)
  • Outer layer (waterproof): wetsuit or drysuit. River Drifters will provide wetsuits; if you have your own wetsuit or drysuit, you should bring it. No one has ever regretted renting a drysuit, (see below for more information)
  • Outer layer (waterproof): splash jacket or dry-top. River Drifters will provide splash jackets; if you have your own dry-top, you should bring it.
  • Outer layer (fashion): shorts to wear over your wetsuit
  • On your feet (protection): shoes or sandals that will stay on while swimming and are comfortable to hike in. No flip-flops, slip-ons or aqua shoes for on the river.
  • On your feet (warmth): wetsuit booties, neoprene, fleece or wool socks under your shoes
  • On your head (warmth): a fleece or wool beanie (you will be wearing a helmet)
  • On your hands (warmth): neoprene gloves or dishwashing gloves over fleece gloves, (surprisingly effective)
  • Lightweight cotton or synthetic clothing for sun protection
  • Waterproof sunscreen/block (SPF 30), lip balm
  • Sunglasses with strap, (maybe not your best pair)
  • Small water bottle, 1 quart, (essential – even if it’s just an empty plastic Gatorade bottle)
OPTIONAL ITEMS

Not absolutely necessary but you are welcome to bring them.

  • Waterproof camera
  • Sarong (very versatile)
  • Locking carabiner, handy for securing your day-pack.
  • 1 or 2 plastic garbage bags and some gallon size zip-locks for organizing gear.

We will provide: a wetsuit and splash jacket plus chair, cup, plate, and eating utensils for each guest.

Please do not bring: Valuable jewelry, bluetooth speakers, guns or irreplaceable items.

*RENTAL GEAR

We have good camping equipment available to rent. Reserve and pay for it in advance, pick it up at the pre-trip meeting, leave it behind when you’re done; simple.

Sleep Kits (tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad) are $25 each per person.
If you only need one or two of the three sleep kit items, they are $10 each per person.

DRYSUITS

Drysuits are waterproof coveralls (and wonderful.) They have tight-fitting latex wrist and neck gaskets and integrated neoprene or latex socks; combined with an insulation layer, they are the warmest, driest, coziest way to stay warm on the river on a cold day. They are also expensive, specialized, and fragile; even if you can find a friend who has one, they may not want to loan it to you. Oregon River Gear rents drysuits for about $199/week. You will need your own insulation layer (polypro, fleece, etc.) but if you are worried about being cold on the trip (who isn’t?), consider a drysuit.

ON THE RIVER:

ON HOT DAYS you will want clothing that dries quickly (nylon shorts and bathing suits) and something to shield you from the sun, (a high-tech SPF long-sleeved shirt or an old lightweight cotton dress shirt and maybe even lightweight long pants or capris). Also, a brimmed hat and a bandana are helpful for staying cool.

ON COOL DAYS you will want a thick, synthetic fleece top, (pullovers are best) and a sturdy, fully waterproof rain shell. You may also want fleece pants or polypropylene long underwear bottoms and rain pants, particularly before mid-June. Don’t bring a cotton sweatshirt and a windbreaker; cotton is worthless when wet and won’t work for on-river insulation and you need something waterproof over your fleece.

ON YOUR FEET you will want shoes that stay on if you go for a swim and are comfortable for hiking. Sport sandals with heel straps (Tevas, Chacos, Keen, etc.) work well, (buckles are better than velcro). Old running shoes work well and are easy to find. Neoprene, wool or fleece socks will add a bit of insulation under shoes or sandals. Wetsuit booties work but can be a bit clammy after a full day.

Think layers. The key to being comfortable on the Owyhee is being dry and adaptable; a thin synthetic layer (polypro) next to your skin with a thick synthetic layer (fleece) over it with a waterproof layer (wetsuit and splash jacket or drysuit) over that seems to work the best. Feet and hands get cold easily and we suggest wetsuit booties or neoprene socks under sturdy shoes and neoprene gloves or fleece and dishwashing gloves. Cotton is worthless when wet and should not be used for on-river insulation.

IN CAMP

In camp you will want comfortable walking/hiking shoes, (flip flops, lightweight boots or tennis shoes), and versatile clothing, (T-shirts, warm shirts, cotton shorts, jeans or sweats, extra fleece, etc). Cotton is fine for camp stuff, but because it is worthless for keeping you warm on the river, many people bring two sets of fleece – one for the river, one for camp – and have a backup in case one gets drenched.

Professional Dressing Tips

‘Fleece’ is a generic term for a spun, polyester fabric developed for outdoor use. It is thick and fluffy and does not absorb water, making it ideal insulation on a river trip. It is commonly called Polartec or Polar Fleece. Polypropylene is a thinner, stretchier, woven variation used predominantly for long underwear. Any polypropylene long underwear will work; heavyweight is the most versatile.

Layering your clothing is an effective way to adjust to the daily weather changes that you may encounter. A light polypropylene layer under a heavy fleece top under a rain shell will get you going on the chilliest of mornings and allow you to shed layers as the day warms up.

Our guides say that one of the handiest things to bring on a trip is a sarong. Versatile, comfortable and colorful, sarongs get used for quick clothing changes, beach throws, sun screens and dinner celebrations.

Where to find it:

Local outdoor or sporting goods stores should have everything you need and fleece garments are now available at most department and closeout stores. Great selections of river trip gear are also available on-line through:

  • Pacific River Supply (drysuit rentals)
  • Northwest River Supplies
  • Columbia Sportswear
  • REI
  • Patagonia
Professional Shopping Tip
  • Thrift Store

CAMP ITEMS go in a watertight dry bag provided by River Drifters (one per person). These are not accessible during the day. Each bag is roughly 16 inches in diameter and about 33 inches tall (the size of a garbage bag). ALL your personal items, including sleeping bag and pad, must fit inside this one bag (tents can be separate). Although we will show you how to close the dry bag so that it stays watertight even if temporarily submerged, packing your sleeping bag in a garbage bag provides extra protection. Zip-lock bags and small stuff sacks are good for keeping track of small and/or wet things inside your bag.

RIVER ITEMS will go in a watertight dry-pack provided by River Drifters (one per person). These small packs are 11 inches in diameter and 24 inches tall, perfect for rain gear, fleece, sunblock, and other things you want to keep handy during the day. For expensive cameras we recommend a Pelican Box, which can be found at most surplus and outdoor stores.

Professional Packing Tip

Our dry-bags are great for keeping things dry but are somewhat awkward for packing and living out of, (they are tall and narrow with a small opening at the top). Compact sleeping bags are much more convenient, and small stuff sacks, pillow cases or zip-lock bags are helpful for dividing up your stuff inside the bag. Trying to put your entire duffel bag or luggage into the dry-bag never seems to work.

Lower Owyhee River Multi-Day Rafting Trips
Owyhee River Rafting

Lower Owyhee River Four-Day

Season: April - May
Duration: 4 Days, 3 Nights
Length: 55+ miles
Price: $880-980
Rapids: I-IV
Skill Level: Family friendly
Age Minimum: 8
Trip Itinerary

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