OWSR No. 29: Grande Ronde River
- 182 mile long tributary of the Snake River
that drains from the Blue and Wallowa mountain ranges in Northeastern
- Historic habitat runs of steelhead and chinook, sockey, and coho
- Important winter habitat for bald eagle, bighorn sheep, elk,
mule deer, and whiteteail deer
- Important Nez Perce subsistence hunting treaty area
- Also designated an Oregon State Scenic Waterway
Rafting the Grande Ronde River
| Photo: Allen Ottman
- Managing Agency: Umatilla National Forest
(USFS), Wallowa-Whitman National Forest (USFS), and Baker Field
- Designated Stretch: From confluence with Wallowa River
to the Washington Border
- Designation Length: 43.8 miles (26.4 miles Wild and
17.4 miles Recreational)
- Outstanding Remarkable Values: Scenery, recreation,
fisheries, and wildlife
- Wild and Scenic River Designation: October 28,
Celebrated by Nate, Chrisy, and Marshall Wilson by
boating the Wallowa and Grande Ronde Rivers from July 28-30, 2017.
Little: I had the pleasure of starting my 2018 river trip season
with a March trip down the Grande Ronde River. We launched at the Minam Store
and paddled the first 9 miles on the Wallowa down to the confluence with
the Grande Ronde. This river, that flows out of the Wallowa Mountain range,
offered spectacular scenery, a huge variety of wild life and huge camps on
beautiful ponderosa pine flats.
After a day catching surf waves on the fly,
spotting bald eagles and watching herds of elk, we camped just across from
Sheep Creek on river right. This large camp studded with ponderosa's had
great tent sites, beautiful veiws of the canyon and the sound of Sheep Creek
Rapids to lull us to sleep. We were able to hike around a bit and check out
the river just beyond our camp.
Day two started off cold and clear, promising another beautiful day paddling
through this volcanic canyon. This day proved to be one of the best days of
wildlife I have every had on a river. Ten minutes after putting on, we were
kayaking next to a family of otters that kept poking their heads up, very curious
about us. Throughout the day, we saw bald eagles perched on snags, herds of
elk grazing under the ponderosa, mountain goats perched on the cliffs, all
in the big mountain, remote feeling Grande Ronde canyon. We found another great
camp for night two accross from a wonderful hilside and waterfall creek.
We paddled out to Troy, our takeout, on day three. The canyon started to open
up a bit, but remained stunningly beatiful. The wildlife continued to impress
us with more elk, river otter and even some big horn sheep. This was a great
trip that I recommend for anyone looking for a mellow whitewater river with
spectacular scenery and amazing wildlife.
Wilson: By late July, most of Northeastern Oregon's rivers and streams
had neared what began to look like unnavigable flows. I had been watching
the gauges for weeks in anticipation of my brother's arrival from South Carolina,
and wondering if our planned float down the Grande Ronde was going to be
When we did finally arrive at the Minam store to set up a shuttle,
no one that worked there made it seem like we wouldn't make it with the current
levels and that was good enough for our crew. Along with my wife, brother,
and dog, I pushed out into the current and immediately felt glad to be there.
No one does the Grande Ronde for the whitewater, so if we had to occasionally
push our raft over a gravel bar it did not detract from the great scenery
the river here is known for. My brother had good luck fishing on the cooler
water near our put in, but found ample time to pester the fish through out
our trip. None of us had a map or way to discern where we were, but managed
to find plentiful camps in old growth Ponderosa Pine groves on elevated bars
each night. Our days on the river were undoubtedly longer because of the
low flows, but in the heat of the summer we wouldn't have strayed far from
the water anyway.
Collier: In the spring of 2006 the rivers of Oregon were running
high. A group of use planned a 5 day trip on the Owyhee
River but decided
to do the Grade Ronde instead because it would be safer at high water.
We began at the Minam Store on the Wallowa River and made miles quickly. Of
the 5 days we had alloted we only spent 3 floating on the river. The other
days we spent hiking, playing frisbee golf and enjoying our campsites.