The Grande Ronde was the last in the string of spring and early summer overnight floats on the calendar. Located in far northeastern Oregon it’s a bit of a drive to get to but well worth if for the scenery and great floating. The flows had been running high all spring and they didn’t come down enough to provide for any good fishing for this trip, but that was the overall theme for most of the trips this year. With high flows the trip was short each day on the water, with 2 to 3 hours being enough to get you to the next camp. As always the scenery was spectacular. The most plentiful wildlife seemed to be swallowtail butterflies which were out in droves.
Well, a three day turnaround between the Owyhee and the North Fork John Day river trips was pretty luxurious for prep time so we shortened it down to one day back home before we were headed to our third river in three weeks, the lower John Day. The Clarno to Cottonwood float is about 70 miles and you can’t have any appreciation for the country you float through unless you see it from the water. You start out in some pretty, well, lets just say, agricultural, country. Country infested with noxious weeds, showing lots of signs of erosion, plenty of cows eating down the riparian area and broken down abandoned equipment. But before the end of the first day you start to get away from all that and you float into paradise for the next 4 days.
A mere three days passed between pulling off the Owyhee and our next river trip of the spring, a three-day float down the North Fork John Day. We attempted this trip last year but the flows dropped too low just days before the launch. With the deep snow pack this year flows weren’t an issue. The North Fork is a different setting than the main John Day. For most of the 41 mile float you are in ponderosa pine and even some Douglas-fir. It’s almost more of a Grande Ronde feel than the dry country of the main John Day.