Grande Ronde, Oregon, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-III (for normal flows)|
|GRANDE RONDE RIVER AT TROY, OR|
|usgs-13333000||1000 - 13000 cfs||II-III||5d06h34m||889 cfs (too low)|
This is a classic multi-day trip in northeastern Oregon popular in late spring and it makes a great trip to share time with friends and family on the river. There are other sections on the Grande Ronde but this one is especially popular because it flows through a remote and forested wilderness canyon designated as a Wild and Scenic River. Just upstream the river flows through agricultural lands and small communities and downstream of the take-out in Troy the river enters a more arid landscape making shade harder to find. The scenery on this run is characterized by basalt terraces and open forests that provide excellent wildlife viewing opportunities (photo). Sitings of elk, deer, and even the occassional bear are common. Campsites are available in forested groves along the river (photo). On a weekday you may have the river to yourself but you can expect competition for campsites on the weekends. This 45 mile run takes about 9 hours of float time at medium flows and although you can easily run the river in two days, it is common to take 3 days and enjoy the great riverside camping and hiking opportunities.
The run starts out on the Wallowa River shortly after its confluence with the Minam River at the Highway 82 bridge. A railroad serving a local excursion train runs along river right for the first 10 miles of this run until you reach the Grande Ronde confluence. This first segment down the Wallowa contains good continuous class II along with 3 of the 5 named rapids on the run. The first rapid is the Minam Roller which can be a fun surf spot (photo). The next significant drop is the House Rock Rapids where a large boulder sits midstream with an easy route down the left hand side (photo). A short distance downstream you will come upon Blind Falls Rapid. There is a good route down the center that avoids the blind ledge to river right. More fun class II takes you down to the confluence. Use caution as you navigate through the bridge pilings at the confluence (photo).
As you start your journey down the Grande Ronde you soon enter the Wild and Scenic River corridor and start to see the good camp spots. The gradient tapers off slightly but at medium flows the river continues to move along at a good pace. Sheep Creek Rapid is located a little over a mile downstream of the confluence and is a relatively straightforward boulder garden that you can boat scout (photo). It's just under 10 miles to the final named rapid on this run known as Martin's Misery which is another boulder garden (photo). Some of the best campsites on the run are found in the section downstream of Martin's Misery.
You will likely see the road in the distance as you approach the Powwatka Bridge (photo). There is access right at the bridge on river right or alternatively at a site a short distance downstream on river left. The next 7 miles or so down to Troy are characterized by some human presence with a road along river left and a few homes but it's still a great section and you can play around in Double Eddy, a fun feature along a bedrock wall. As you approach the bridge in Troy, the take-out is on river right (photo). You can walk across the bridge into town for a burger and a milkshake. While many take-out here you can continue your trip down the Grande Ronde downstream of Troy and into Washington where the trees begin to disappear and the river enters a more arid landscape. You can even continue all the way down to the Snake River.
The Grande Ronde runs through a remote canyon in northeastern Oregon. The put-in is located at Highway 82 mile 33.5 on the downstream river left side of the bridge across the Wallowa River. This highway starts in La Grande, OR which is the closest significant town. The Minam Store is located at the put-in and provides raft rentals, shuttles, and a limited selection of supplies. Good nearby camping is available at the Minam State Recreation Area which makes a good place to rendevous with your group the evening before your run. To reach this camping area which has designated sites with picnic tables and an outhouse, head 1.6 miles downstream from the put-in on a dirt road that runs along the river left bank of the Wallowa (the turn for this road is reached by heading left away from the store and then taking a right to head in the downstream direction). As an added bonus the Minam Roller provides a fun surf wave for those who want to get in a session the evening before putting on.
The take-out is located at the old bridge in Troy on river right (this bridge is now closed to vehicles but there is a new concrete bridge a short distance downstream). The most convenient option is to arrange for a shuttle at the Minam Store so all your vehicles are waiting at the take-out when you arrive.To get back home your best option is to head downstream and then east over to Highway 3 where you can either continue north or south. Alternate routes are available through the forest roads within the Umatilla National Forest and although some of these routes may look shorter on the map, don't plan on them being any faster. One of these scenic options is Forest Road 62 which heads west out of Troy and offers some great views and choice car camping.
The BLM publishes a river guide to the Grande Ronde which shows key landmarks and campsites (you can probably pick this up at the Minam Store). John Garren's Oregon River Tours also provides a good map to the run.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|-88.2||House Rock Rapids||II|
|-79.5||Sheep Creek Rapids||II|
Confluence of the Minam River with the Grand Ronde River.