The John Day is the longest free-flowing river in Oregon, and one of the longest in the United States. The John Day, which runs 280 miles from its headwaters in the Blue Mountains to its confluence with the Columbia, is our longest rafting trip. Its a good trip to choose if you are looking for a
scenic float and mild whitewater.
In 1988 Congress designated 148 miles of the main John Day (including the sections we float) as well as 101 miles of the north and south forks as National Wild and Scenic Rivers. The John Day watershed supports one of the largest remaining populations of wild Chinook salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin, and is known for its excellent bass fishing. A wide variety of bird life may be found here, as well.
We offer trips on both the Upper and the Lower John Day. Either section is ideal for a scenic float, and they may be combined to create an nine day journey. The upper segment of the John Day is the calmer of the two, and the few rapids encountered are quite mild. This leaves us with ample time to relax, sunbathe, fish, and take in the passing scenery. Our Lower John Day trip begins with a few class III rapids, but thereafter few rapids are encountered, and most of those are quite mild. This makes the lower run a relaxing float as well.
Although close to Portland, the John Day's lower reaches are little traveled, holiday weekends aside. As a result we often have the colorful scenery and sunshine all to ourselves.
The Tenino Indians lived along the lower stretches of the waterway. Over 150 sites on both stream-banks have yielded artifacts and other signs of habitation.
In 1861 gold was found up nearby Canyon Creek as well as along Griffin Creek, just southwest of Baker. The thousands of miners and prospectors who arrived at Griffin Creek held a formal meeting and named their settlement Auburn. Overnight, Auburn grew to briefly become the largest town in the state, before disappearing again in 1903.
Clarno (our put-in point for lower canyon trips) was never a large town. It was named for Andrew Clarno, who settled there in 1866 and ran one of the first post offices in the county. His son, Charles, ran a ferry close to where the Clarno Bridge was built in 1897. The younger Clarno, an enterprising man with a love of steamboats, constructed a miniature riverboat, the J.D. Queen. The Queen was 40 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 10 feet tall. She navigated as a ferry and pleasure craft on a ten mile stretch of water near the town of Clarno.