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Old 01-15-2006   #1
Marine Biologist
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 90
Owyhee Barometer

Imagine a pristine gorge with 3000' cliffs (basalt), 170 miles of beautiful whitewater class I-VI (one mandatory portage), petroglyphs, hotspings, extreme remoteness, arches, bighorn sheep, etc. Then imagine that I'm not talking about the Grand Canyon, but a river flowing from idaho to oregon in the desert canyons. And, the best part yet, it's not permitted. That means unlimited days. Why the hell do people not run this river more often? Maybe I should shut the hell up and keep a secret a secret. But all feaux advertising aside, how many people would be interested in something like this with noone else on the river to compete for campsites? this is the only other river that I know of that you can do trips as long or longer than the grand, with whitewater more challenging and diverse, and scenery equally stunning. March-May runnoff. Who's interested in an Apr-may trip?

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Old 01-16-2006   #2
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 490
We tried to run it about two years ago when they had been having a great snow year. Had the time off in April, then it got really warm in March and the whole 125% snowpack flushed in 3 weeks (hit 16,000!!!). By the time our trip dates arrived it was too low to float. The weather was still nice though so we ralleyed and picked up an unusually early season, pre-lottery, permit on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Had 7 or 8 sunny days on it with low, but not too low, flows and didn't see another person all week.

My guess is that most folks are not attracted to the Owyhee because it runs earlier than most things in that area and it can be a very finicky time for weather. The shuttle for anything but 3 Forks to Rome sounds like a long adventure, too. I checked into prices to run from Nevada headwaters down and it was like $250 for a driver using your vehical and 6 hours 1-way. Furthermore, there's bentonite (sp?) in the soil around there so I guess some folks are afraid of the mud. Personally, as long as my shuttle driver had the what'sup and they could bring my truck around, I'd see that as an opportunity for multisport!

Another trip in the area that remains on my list is the Jarbridge-Bruneau. Sounds like another good one if you can time the flows. Jarbridge is raftable if you have an alert crew and a small R2 raft.

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Old 01-16-2006   #3
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Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1984
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,879
I found & printed out a river guide of the Owyhee a while ago- I had planned on getting a trip together at some point, but the timing was off and I kept pulling Idaho river trips.

I think you can get the guide here, but the site is temporarily down so I'm not positive that it's the same guide: Owyhee/Owyheefinalwildriverplan.pdf

Have a great trip....
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Old 01-16-2006   #4
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Thought-criminal, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 989
Curious...what is bentonite and why are some people afraid of it? I googled it and it didn't look very scary.
I hope in the future Americans are thought of as a warlike, vicious people, because I bet a lot of high schools would pick "Americans" as their mascot. -Jack Handy
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Old 01-16-2006   #5
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 490
When it gets wet its like quicksand and slippery, too.
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Old 01-17-2006   #6
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 321
Did the Jarbridge-bruneau 3 years ago. I have been wanting to do the owyhee as well. These rivers are excellent runs if you can make them happen, but there's no permit because the demand is low, for a reason. First, water levels can change drastically in a short timeframe, leaving you high and dry. The river running can be extremely techinical for rafts at low flows, and portages for rafts can be a huge pain (had two on the jarbridge, one of them 1/4 mile long). Also, beware of the basalt river boulders, they are sharp and can easily shred raft floors. We took two 14' self bailers and they were definately too big for the jarbridge. If I take a raft down there again, a 10 or 12 foot boat will be more fun. In general, I'd say that self-support kayaks or open canoes are a better way to go. There were some pretty nice campsites on the water, but they are generally pretty small so I wouldn't take more then 10 in a group. The combination of the jarbridge/bruneau has the easiest access, with it all being on paved and good dirt roads. Our shuttle cost $80 from the locals.

The river running on the owyhee is probably a bit easier as below three forks, the river is more pool drop and has more volume to it. If you go above three forks, you're definately in canoe/kayak territory as you are talking about some tiny tiny rivers. Also, these runs aren't wholly deserted. You will probably encounter other boaters, especially if you launch on a weekend.

However, if you make it happen, you will be rewarded with one of the most unique canyons I've ever been on.
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Old 01-18-2006   #7
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 120

Heya Fabio! keep me posted on your plans! I'm sill livin in Boise at least through '06 and I'm up for the Owyhee or Bruneau or whatnot. Good snow so far. If you're puttin in for a MF this year keep me in mind and I'll do the same. Still in OR?- If so, I'm out there for work a lot so lets try to meet over a beer or a paddle or better yet both.... Claire
new email:riverbio(at)yahoo
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Old 01-18-2006   #8
Marine Biologist
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 90
Hiya Claire,
Well, I lost my paddle and my dignity today during my first swim. Not having been in a kayak for a while, and not ever having run my playboat in big water, i decided to run it through surf city, lake creek. It was big,
and after getting knocked off my third consecutive roll by yet another
hole, breaker, and lateral (subsequently), then carping two attempts onside and completely missing one offside, I popped the top. I had already rolled about 5 times prior, and was tired. There were no eddies, and after gathering and holding on to the kayak and paddle for
about a 1/4 mile and getting trashed, I decided to let go of the boat
as we were entering yet another hole, which twisted the paddle from my
grip. Hypothermia was sapping my strength, and I decided to stop
swimming downstream after the paddle and make for the trees. Should
have opted for the gus, for sure. Bringing it tomorrow in fact.

The water is definitely here. Last night it rained 2.37 inches, a record (for the area) for the past 60 years. I have been deterred by high water (too high) 3 times in the last 2 weeks. It would be awesome to paddle and drink beer soon. Buying a house here, so should be here for awhile. I am on the coast. Where do you coe for travel? Give me a call when you're next coming. 541-961-3709
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Old 01-19-2006   #9
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 490
Will Raft4 & Mountainbuns,

If you wouldn't mind, keep me in the loop too for your permits in Ideeho!, I put in about 6 applications every year for myself, family, and friends and I haven't been lucky the last two years. I grew up in Sandpoint and I have lots of old friends in Boise now so I get up there for a paddle almost every year.

Claire, I have spoken to you on the phone before and we were going to try to get out on Bailey before you moved. I wish I'd remembered that you were in Boise because I was up there last Labor Day weekend and we had some fun runs on the Canyon and Deadwood.

If you've started to meet some folks in the community up there, you need to call them out. Deadwood's a beaut, but it's a smear on every redneckayaker in ID that someone hasn't got his lazy ass up there to clear out a few logs. Find one of the macho ones and tell him to put down his PBR and pick up his Stihl. My Stihl-finger was twitchin' the entire run. It's not as bad as people think, but it could be so much better if just the first five miles had some maintenance. With that dam above it, it would stay clean for a long time. Pardon the ramble. . .I'm just ashamed of my people.
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Old 01-19-2006   #10
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about f'n time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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