2010 John Day River
June 17, 2010 at 8:32 AM
John Day River, June 17-20, 2010
Because there are no dams on the John Day River, the flow can vary greatly. After weeks of looking like we were going to have a below average flow for our trip, all of the rain we had in early June raised the flow to just over 20,000 cfs at the Service Creek gauge about a week before we were set to launch. After that minor flood, the flow steadily fell to what turned out to be an ideal flow of about 4000 cfs at the time we launched.
In all, ten adults and five kids made the trip that was a mixture of sun and rain from Service Creek to Clarno. The first two days were sunshine and clear skies. It was a great way to get a good start on my summer tan and get my sandal tan lines on my feet. Most of us got a little sunburned; and we had no clue that the wispy clouds slowly building in the sky as we pulled into the second night’s camp was the end of that. For the second year in a row, Bruce Ripley cooked dinner in a torrential downpour.
It didn’t just rain on us, it outright poured. We were in the middle of a thunderstorm and were treated to a lightening show like you only see in the mid-west. Luckily, we had a tarp to keep us dry. After the rain during dinner time, it rained all night and didn’t stop until sometime during the early morning hours.
All of the rain that night brought the river up about six inches and turned the water brown. That was the end of the fishing for our trip. It was also the end of the fishing for the multitudes of guided fisherman in fish cats that we ran into the third night. There were so many people that finding camp was challenging as the rain started up again. We found what turned out to be a decent place and took shelter under the tarp again as it rained off and on all evening long.
The last day of our trip was Fathers Day. I can’t think of a better way to spend with it than with my family on a river. This is a mellow enough river that young kids can go, and the campsites are very kid-friendly as well. We have introduced both of our kids to multi-day rafting on this river; this was our daughter’s first trip at age four.
This is the highest flow I have floated this river at, and definitely the easiest. The rapids in the John Day River (if you can call them that), are mostly large rocks in the middle of the river, and if there is enough water to submerge them then the river becomes very easy. In the section we floated, there are four Class II rapids; you don’t go there for the whitewater. You make the trip for an easy trip to take kids on and some great camping. This river is best run at as high of a flow as possible; there are a few sections where the river is wide and deep, and you need as much water as possible to push through them and wash out the rapids.
All in all, this was another great trip with a group of great people. This is a great river to run in the spring or early summer. Because there are no dams on this river, the flow is very dependant on snow melt and rain water. If you can plan your trip to this river with the flow being at least 1500 cfs and be ready for whatever the weather dishes out, then you will have a good trip.