The Grande Ronde River in northeastern Oregon is one of my kids’ favorite rivers. The three day run from Minam to Troy has fun, splashy, and relatively easy rapids. Most importantly it has some of the best riverside camping in the northwest. High runoff this year caused us to push our trip back to probably the busiest weekend of the year, July 4th.
The eight of us arrived at Minam a little after noon where we purchased our invasive species permit, fishing license, and arranged our shuttle at Minam Store. We waited a while at the launch site as we were behind a large party that was slow to put in the river. Our turn arrived and we quickly unloaded, hoping to find a campsite on this busy weekend.
The trip starts out on the Wallowa River, right where the Minam joins the Wallowa. It’s fun and fast you quickly move through a series of rapids including Minam Roller, Red Rock, and Blind Falls, all Class 2+ rapids. Wyatt was piloting the cataraft and Colter had a kayak as we made our way downstream. It was disheartening to pass a number of full campsites as we descended.
One of the great things about the Grande Ronde is the shear number of sites available. However, as the afternoon wore on our standards for a campsite began to decrease. Around 5:00 and about 19 miles into our journey we eddied out at Alder Creek where we found a small campsite. Fortunately we had just enough room for our table, fire pan, and hammocks.
The eight of us set up camp and the kids roasted hot dogs while Jen and I fixed steak for dinner (we just tell the kids, “it’s good to be old”). We read around the fire as the night descended and the air cooled, lulled to sleep by the steady sound of the water flowing past.
Saturday morning we vowed to take the first campsite that we liked. We fixed breakfast burritos and broke down camp. Wyatt saw several parties float past and wanted to get started to make sure we found a nice site. He pushed off with plans to stop before Martin’s Misery and wait for us if he hadn’t located a site before then. The rest of us headed off and after a short 1.5 mile paddle we found a great site with a beach, large shady trees, and plenty of room for hammocks. We decided that we would spend our day being lazy.
We swam, read, played, hiked, and enjoyed a wonderful day in a beautiful place. It was nice to not have to worry about competing for a campsite. It was a perfect spot for riverside camping. We fixed fajitas for dinner and read by the campfire until dark.
Sunday morning we woke and got out on the water by about 9:00. We had about 19 miles to go on the day. We enjoyed our trip and arrived at the takeout at Powatka Bridge around 1:00. It was definitely the most crowded we had seen the river, but I really don’t think there is such a thing as a bad trip on the Grande Ronde.
See it Yourself: A class II to mild III river, the Grande Ronde offers a beautiful float through remote canyons. The 46 mile Minam to Troy section (we only ran the 40 mile run to Powatka Bridge this year) offers forested campsites, busy, but non-technical water and extraordinary scenery. It is self permitted and generally runnable until mid July or so. The BLM offers a helpful guidebook, useful for planning and keeping track of your location on the run. The usual firepan and portable toilet rules apply.