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Hi folks! Long time reader, first time poster. I'm putting together a lower Owyhee trip for the week of June 24 and have two questions for the hive mind. Apologies if these questions have already been answered -- I've done several searches through the archives, but I could have missed something.

First, does anyone know the current condition of the road down to Birch Creek? Presuming that it's relatively dry by late June, could I navigate it in a Subaru Outback, or does it require a high-clearance 4WD?

Second, for those who have done it before, what would be your water-level cutoff for the lowest you'd want to run it in a 14-foot oar raft? If it gets low, our plan is to run it in 2-person inflatable kayaks and packrafts. Just trying to figure out what CFS cutoff we should use for ditching the raft and going for plan B.
 

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Hi folks! Long time reader, first time poster. I'm putting together a lower Owyhee trip for the week of June 24 and have two questions for the hive mind. Apologies if these questions have already been answered -- I've done several searches through the archives, but I could have missed something.

First, does anyone know the current condition of the road down to Birch Creek? Presuming that it's relatively dry by late June, could I navigate it in a Subaru Outback, or does it require a high-clearance 4WD?

Second, for those who have done it before, what would be your water-level cutoff for the lowest you'd want to run it in a 14-foot oar raft? If it gets low, our plan is to run it in 2-person inflatable kayaks and packrafts. Just trying to figure out what CFS cutoff we should use for ditching the raft and going for plan B.

I've heard 1,000 mentioned as a cut off for rafting, but that is 2nd hand info so your mileage may vary. Lowest I ran it was at 1,800 and I think I'd be hesitant to raft it much below 1,500, but thats partly personal preference because its only a two hour drive.

I made two trips out of Birch Creek this year. I saw a Subaru parked down there once, but I think it would take a little bit of a beating getting in and out.

Most of the road isn't that bad. However, there are maybe a half dozen spots where it is a little washed out, where I'm pretty sure you would scraped bottom in a Subaru. You could easily puncture an oil pan or crush your exhaust pipe if you weren't super careful.

For me, it's hard to calibrate advice on roads. I know people who think Birch Creek is treacherous. I tend to benchmark "bad" against the Bruneau put in road, which is an absolute POS. Anything else feels super good in comparison.
 

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Road a few weeks ago was OK in my Jeep. I have done it in a Subaru Forester with no problem in the past, and saw one on my recent trip out, also with no problems.

Lowest flow I have rafted was about 1200 cfs (fun!), and know others that got by on 800 cfs with some complaints about rocks. A month from now 800 cfs seems unlikely, unless it just keeps raining.
 

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Shapp
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Hi folks! Long time reader, first time poster. I'm putting together a lower Owyhee trip for the week of June 24 and have two questions for the hive mind. Apologies if these questions have already been answered -- I've done several searches through the archives, but I could have missed something.

First, does anyone know the current condition of the road down to Birch Creek? Presuming that it's relatively dry by late June, could I navigate it in a Subaru Outback, or does it require a high-clearance 4WD?

Second, for those who have done it before, what would be your water-level cutoff for the lowest you'd want to run it in a 14-foot oar raft? If it gets low, our plan is to run it in 2-person inflatable kayaks and packrafts. Just trying to figure out what CFS cutoff we should use for ditching the raft and going for plan B.
I would drive a subaru outback down there (I have one, but always take my pickups on rafting trips), but keep in mind I have no regard for my vehicles and have never even washed them for years at a time :) I have been down to birch creek on a group that had a subaru outback and it did fine. I have driven my low clearance 2x Tacoma down there several times (when it was dry) without issue. In the grand scheme of potential road conditions, Leslie is Class I, Birch Creek is Class II. Have you considered taking out at Leslie? A camp along the reservoir at echo rock hot springs is great. Paddling the reservoir in an IK is not too bad, I have done it (if you get an early start to avoid wind). If you paddle a double IK and have a removable skeg for the lake water, its way way better. Plus staying a night at takeout at the BLM camp in Leslie Gulch is pretty great, and lots of nice hiking to do there.

I am not going to give a minimum flow for navigating a 14' raft, but suffice it to say it has been done very low. But considering median flows that usually occur that time of year and how the snow came off so fast this year, I would just go with your Plan B up front, you won't regret that.
 

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I think taking IKs will be your very best bet. Late June the Owyhee could still be in the 300cfs range and is still well worth the trip. Just plan for afternoon wind, pond like water in many areas, rattle snakes but no nobody there!



I have ran both a 14' and 18' boat down at very low water but you run a high risk for a pin or wrap. Assuming the weather will be good, pack light and enjoy the IK adventure!
 

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Ran it once starting at about 1000 cfs at the put-in, dropping to about 800 cfs during the trip. A little low, but really not much of a problem in a 14' lightly loaded raft.
If I had a Subaru Outback, I would take it on that road, when the road is in decent condition.
 

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Shapp
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Just for a little qualification of what to expect for flows typically on June 24th:

Median daily flow for June 24th based on the period of record is about 340 cfs.
A somewhat wet year is approximated by the 75 percentile which = about 600 cfs
A wet year is approximated by the 90 percentile which is around 1000 cfs.
The snow pack this winter was a bit above average, but it came off quick in April to early May. It is essentially gone. The current spike is because of rain and will likely quickly fall back to near median conditions once this storm cycle has subsided. My best guesstimate is that daily flows will be near the period of record daily median values by the end of June (i.e. sub 500 cfs). Flows over about 600 cfs are probably unlikely unless there is a good sized rain event around your launch time.

Link to daily median flows for the period of record:
https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/dvs...=file&submitted_form=parameter_selection_list
 

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Shapp
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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks to everyone for all of this information! It's really helpful.

One quick follow-up question: for those who have been down at low water in IKs, is there a level where it becomes such a slog that you'd steer clear? We're mainly in this for the wilderness experience and the sense of exploration, not the thrilling whitewater, and I've done previous low-water trips (including a low-water Escalante packraft trip that was amazing) with the same folks. I think where we'd draw the line is if we were dragging boats more than we were floating in them. Any thoughts on when we'd reach that point?
 

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Shapp
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Thanks to everyone for all of this information! It's really helpful.

One quick follow-up question: for those who have been down at low water in IKs, is there a level where it becomes such a slog that you'd steer clear? We're mainly in this for the wilderness experience and the sense of exploration, not the thrilling whitewater, and I've done previous low-water trips (including a low-water Escalante packraft trip that was amazing) with the same folks. I think where we'd draw the line is if we were dragging boats more than we were floating in them. Any thoughts on when we'd reach that point?
You'll have enough water for the IK tip for your planned timeframe for sure. You will also encounter a lot of fun Class II+ boulder drops (not on the BLM map), especially in the fist 25 miles at low IK trip flows.
 

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I once knew the rangers on the river that would run canoe patrols all Summer (sub 200cfs) so you will be just fine. As mentioned above, its all the no name rapids that appear that can be a bit time consuming. A low water out of peak season should greatly reward you with a wilderness experience.


If you are fascinated with the Owyhee like many of us here, consider picking up Bonnie Olin's book the Owyhee Journals. Great trip stories about the Owyhee (mainly the upper forks and tributaries) and many of her trips were done at very low and out of traditional season.



There is even an outfitter that runs cayononeering trips on the Little West Owyhee in the Summer and Fall, point being that there are a lot of great ways to visit the area and obtain a wilderness experience outside of the traditional boating window.


Have a great trip!
 
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