Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers

by Michael Hughes

Tucked into the Northeast corner or Oregon, tumbling out of the Blue Mountains, is the Grande Ronde River. A gem for rafters and kayakers looking for multi-day trip with excellent camps, awesome wildlife, and spectacular big canyon views.

This is a unique trip because it actually starts on the Wallowa River, enters the Grande Ronde 9 miles into the trip, and finishes at the confluence with the Wenaha River at Troy. All three are designated as National Wild and Scenic Rivers.

The Grande Ronde River

The Grande Ronde River

With snowpack around parts of Oregon looking a little bit low we decided we should go check out the Grande Ronde as an alternative for our Owyhee River trips. Thankfully the river isn't too far from Hood River (about 4 hours) and with an early start on Monday morning we were on the river by about lunch time.

Wallowa River

There is a nice put-in right in the small outpost of Minam. The Minam Store offers shuttles and last minute gear and food you may need.

Just downstream from put-in is a popular kayak surf wave and first obstacle, Minam Roller. This is also a popular fishing hole near a handful of campsites.

Red Rock Rapid on the Wallowa River

Red Rock Rapid on the Wallowa River

The next 8 miles include some mellow read-and-run rapids with some classic Eastern Oregon scenery.

Grande Ronde

The Grande Ronde meets the Wallowa as the Wallowa Union Rail Road crosses the two rivers. Below here the river is designated as "wild" so you don't see much in terms of development, just a beautiful river corridor filled with wild life and grand sweeping views.

Rafting on the wild Grande Ronde River

Rafting on the wild Grande Ronde River

The camps along the Grande Ronde River are some of the best I've ever seen. An abundance of long benches just up from the river offer some spectacular camping options. There are sites for small and medium size groups as well as big groups.

There are a handful of side creeks that help feed the river with water. Many of them had quite a bit of water flowing out when we floated by. I bet later in the summer less when there is less water these creeks would offer excellent hiking opportunities.

Side Creek Stop

Side Creek Stop

A big highlight of our trip was the abundant wildlife. We floated amongst curious river otters a couple of times and saw a handful of bald eagles hanging out high in there trees. There were several large herds of elk grazing. It was a real treat to see five mountain goats hanging out on what seemed to be a vertical wall.

Floating by a herd of elk

Floating by a herd of elk

Finishing our trip in Troy, Oregon

As we floated closer to our take-out, Troy, we started seeing some ranches and river front cabins. It was a nice re-entry after only seeing two other folks on the river. Troy sits right at the confluence of the Grande Ronde and the Wenaha River and is just a small ranching outpost with some houses, a campsite, and resort/restaurant. Even though ending a river trip is always a bummer, it is cool to finish a trip at a confluence.

Grande Ronde and Wenaha Confluence

Grande Ronde and Wenaha Confluence

At this confluence we were greeted by two more curious river otters. They watched us float by and pull up to shore and then they went swimming back up river - such a nice way to end a great couple of days on the river.

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Author

Michael Hughes

Michael grew up in a small Minnesota town. He spent his days outside in the woods and riding a bike. The only thing that has changed is his location. Oregon is now home and he is still outside, riding a bike, and paddling where ever the water is.

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