2012 Grande Ronde Trip Report

May 11, 2012 at 10:02 AM

Submitted by Tom Hanson with Eric Ball

On Friday, May 11 we launched at Minam for our 7th annual Grande Ronde float. The launch point is really on the Wallowa River near the confluence of the Minam River. We float about 10 miles before encountering the Grande Ronde River. If you drive over the day before (like I always do) you can camp at the Minam State Park about 3 miles downriver. For this year’s excursion we had 6 boats, 9 people and 1 dog.

The river gauge at Troy indicated a flow of about 7500 cfs, so the Minam put-in was about half that amount. We heard from a boater who ran the river a week prior to our trip that a log was blocking the main channel at Red Rock Rapids and that we might have to scout. When we got there (3 miles from the put-in) there was no log so we ran it on the left as we normally do. The BLM website warned of a new rapid ⅓ mile below Elbow Creek (at river mile 64) formed by a debris fan from a side canyon. This was easily run on the right without scouting.

We arrived at out first night’s camp after a float of about 32 miles. These Grande Ronde campsites above the community of Troy are some of the best in Oregon. They consist of a beach without a steep bank, large flat areas for tents and large ponderosa pines. Yellowstone Park could not provide a better campsite. We spend the remainder of the afternoon munching on hors d’oeuvres, along with smoked salmon. The salmon was caught and smoked by Spud Sperb. Thank you Spud.

On Saturday we launched at 7:40AM for a long float. There was some frost on the boats that morning, but we knew it would be warming up to 70° by early afternoon. We stopped at Troy to use the facilities, then at Boggan’s Oasis a little further downriver where some party members had lunch. Our camp was a long drift of 47+ miles that day. There is a fair amount of private land that we had to pass. Also, we were now only 11 miles from Heller Bar. That would put us at the take-out on Sunday with plenty of time to drive home.

Our only obstacle on Sunday was The Narrows. This is a Class III-IV rapids that demands scouting every time. The hazard level of this rapid is very dependent on the flow level. On this day there was a nice curl that could be a flip hazard. We all chose to take the far left (cheater) route and only brush up against this flip wave. Everyone got through without difficulty. Dwight found a rattlesnake near where most of us had been to scout the rapid. The snake appeared to be pretty cold still, and not moving too fast. This is the first time we have ever seen a rattlesnake on any of our trips (in early May). So, it pays to keep your eyes open when scouting. Fortunately, Lucy the dog found other things of interest during the scout.

We arrived at Hellers Bar by 10:00AM, plenty of time to de-rig and begin the journey home. Boggan’s Oasis provided our shuttle again this year.

Thanks to Eric for leading the trip and for everyone that went along for another great weekend. Participants were Eric and Candace Ball, Lucy (the dog), Dwight Gladden, Tom Hanson, Spud Sperb, Allan Staley, Steve Powell, Don Gordon and Juergen Oswald.

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