Lower John Day, 2017

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.


Departure from Clarno


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.


If you enjoy this view, thank agriculture


Abandoned Barn, knapweed riparian area


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.


Golden Eagle enjoying dinner


Clarno rapids serve as a sort of gate-keeper to this section of river.  You need to be able to navigate it or you don’t get in.  Flows were high and they happened to be a piece of cake this time around.



Alluvial Fan


With high flows, before we knew it we were down to basalt and setting up our first of four camps.  Basalt is one of my favorite sections of river with huge basalt boulders littering the river.






It’s also a stellar place for a camp.


Basalt Camp


And there’s a few hiking options.


Hiking lava fields of basalt camp


Mock orange


Hiking lava fields of basalt camp


Basalt Sunset


Next day we were up for a view right off the bat floating by the Red Wall.  The first of many impressive rock walls along the way.


Red Wall



About two-thirds of the way through the day I started thinking about a campsite.  Would it be open?  There was almost nobody on the river, so odds were good.  Turns out it was.  A nice beach to land the boats, several places for tents, and a great view of a multicolored rock wall.  That’s enough for me.



Camp two


Rock Wall


After a few days on the river it sort of turns routine.  Unpack, set up camp, dinner, breakfast, pack.  But not the scenery.  It always amazes me.  Seeing the world from the rivers point of view is what keeps me coming back.






We dragged a few fish down the river and they made a tasty snack.


Bass, it’s what’s for dinner


The next night was spent glaring up at the Palisades.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon in camp.





Somewhere along the way we happened across some rock art as well.






The last night on the river was a treat for me.  I always wanted to hike up to Hoot Owl Rock, but that means you need to camp there.  It wasn’t an option on the last two trips.  It was this time around.


Hoot Owl Rock




Panoramic from Hoot Owl Rock


On the way to Hoot Owl Rock


Down hill from Hoot Owl




If you aren’t impressed yet, well, sorry for you.  You should obviously stay home.  Scenery is all around you on this trip.  It just slips by a bit too quick.









We eased our way down the river to the take out.  Back to real life?  I don’t think so, I think we’re leaving that behind.




Last view of Hoot Owl



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