Our Grande Ronde raft trips are popular with those of our guests who are looking for mild white water and great scenic beauty. The Grande Ronde is also a great trip for fishing and for wildlife viewing.
Our float takes us through what we think is some of the most beautiful and varied mountain scenery in the West. Bald eagles, black bear, and Rocky Mountain elk make their home here, and glacier lilies color the hillsides. We camp in beautiful meadows dotted with ponderosa pines and fragrant mock orange. Our camps are good places to fish, bird watch, or hunt for wildflowers -- all rewarding pastimes here. Take a walk and you may see columbine, sego lily, lupine or shooting stars growing along the shoreline, and golden eagles, pileated woodpeckers, western meadowlarks and evening grosbeaks in the sky above.
Our Grande Ronde trips begin on the Wallowa, a Grande Ronde tributary. Both the Grande Ronde and the Wallowa flow out of the Wallowa mountains in northeastern Oregon, "Oregon's Alps". The Wallowa is clear, swift and steep. Most of the rapids we encounter are class II, but several are rated class II+ to III: Minam Roller, Redrock, and Vincent Falls.
We join the main stream roughly ten miles down. (The Wallowa is actually the larger of the two in terms of flow, but the Grande Ronde, being the longer stream, gets to keep its name past the confluence.) Below the confluence the pace slows, but several long class II+ rapids remain, including Sheep Creek and Martin's Misery.
This tour may not be as well known as tours on waterways such as the Rogue or the Salmon, but it is their equal in many ways, and this is the one to choose if you're looking for mild rapids. It's a little-known gem of a trip. Join us, and discover its many facets for yourself!
For the first ten miles of our journey we'll be floating the Wallowa River, the Grande Ronde's biggest tributary. (The Wallowa is actually the larger of the two rivers in terms of flow, but the Grande Ronde, being the longer river, gets to keep its name past the confluence.)
The Wallowa is clear, swift and steep. Most of the rapids we encounter are class II, with several class II+ to III rapids: Minam Roller, Redrock, and Vincent Falls. (Rapids are rated I through VI. Class I indicates the smallest rapids, while VI indicates steep, turbulent, dangerous rapids and waterfalls.)
Below the confluence the pace slows, but several long class II+ rapids remain, including Sheep Creek and Martin's Misery. 5 day trips continue further downstream, ending the final morning with the Narrows, the Grande Ronde's largest rapid.
We camp in beautiful meadows dotted with ponderosa pines and fragrant mock orange. Our camps are good places to fish, bird watch, or hunt for wildflowers -- all rewarding pastimes on the Grande Ronde. Take a walk, and you may see columbine, sego lily, lupine, shooting stars, or monkeyflower growing along the river, and golden eagles, pileated woodpeckers, western meadowlarks, and evening grosbeaks in the sky above.
3 Day Trips: We meet at 9:00 AM on the day your trip begins on the riverbank adjacent to the Minam Store in Minam, Oregon. Minam is approximately 35 miles northeast of La Grande, and roughly 260 miles east of Portland. Please have your breakfast before our meeting time, and arrive in your river clothes. At Minam look for our boats, and for a vehicle sporting the O.R.E. logo. We'll show you how to pack your things into our river bags, and you will park your vehicles nearby. Then, after a short safety and orientation briefing, which will include instruction on paddle and rowing techniques as needed, we'll be on our way downstream.
5 Day Trips: We meet at 7:30 AM on the day your trip begins, in the lobby of the Red Lion Hotel, 621 21st St., Lewiston, Idaho. Lewiston is roughly 325 miles east of Portland, Oregon, and about 95 miles south of Spokane, Washington. Our Lead Guide will meet you in the motel lobby. If in doubt about where to find us, ask at the desk, and they will direct you. After a brief orientation you will pack your things into our river bags, and park your vehicles at the motel. We will then go by bus to our launch site at Minam (approximately a 3 hour ride). We'll rig the boats, have lunch, then after a safety orientation is completed we'll be on our way down river.
On the River
Each day is a bit different. But a typical day on the river begins with freshly brewed coffee around 7 AM, and breakfast by 8 AM. After breakfast we’ll pack our bags and load the boats. Then, after a brief orientation to the day’s adventures, we’ll head downstream.
We’re on the river between three and five hours per day. Along the way we stop for a riverside picnic lunch. We may also stop to scout rapids, or to take a short hike up scenic side streams. We usually arrive in camp by mid to late afternoon, and while the guides prepare hors d’oeuvres and dinner, you’ll have time to hike, fish, read, or nap.
3 Day Trip: We typically arrive at Powatka Bridge, our take-out point, between 1:30 and 3 P. M. Once we've unpacked, you’ll board a van or bus for the ride back to Minam. (On small trips, we will completely de-rig the boats, and our guides will accompany you back to Minam. On larger trips, you will say good-bye to the guides when you leave the take-out, as they will stay behind to finish de-rigging.) The ride takes about two hours thirty minutes, and is an exceptionally scenic drive. We arrive back in Minam between 4:30 and 6:30 PM.
5 Day Trip: We typically arrive at Heller, our take-out point, around 3 P. M. Our shuttle service will have shuttled your car to Heller Bar, so once we've unpacked, you’ll be on your way.
- The services of our professional guides and staff.
- Transportation to our take out near Troy back to Minam at journey's end on 3 day trips, and transportation from Lewiston to Minam and then from Heller Bar to Lewiston on 5 day trips.
- All meals, from lunch on the first day through lunch on the last. Our menu is delicious, varied, and hearty. Meals are freshly prepared by our guides from the highest quality ingredients. Juice and water are available at each meal. Coffee, tea, and cocoa are available at dinner and breakfast, and complementary wine is served with some dinners. Special dietary needs may be accommodated with advance notice. We also provide cups, plates, and silverware.
- Durable, professional quality rafts and river running equipment, including U.S. Coast Guard Approved lifejackets.
- Waterproof river bags and boxes for your personal gear.
- Camp chairs.
3 Day Trips: We will meet at 9:00 AM on the day your trip begins, on the riverbank adjacent to the Minam Store in Minam, Oregon. Minam is approximately 35 miles northeast of La Grande, and roughly 280 miles east of Portland.
To get to Minam take Interstate 84 to La Grande, and exit onto Oregon Highway 82. Follow Highway 82 to Minam. At the sign pointing to Minam State Park, you will see the Minam Store on the left, next to the Wallowa River. The closest commercial airport is Pendleton, Oregon (85 miles from Minam). It is serviced by Alaska Airlines. Plan your flight to arrive the day before your river trip begins.
No public transportation is available from Pendleton to Minam, but rental cars are available.
5 Day Trips: We meet at 7:30 AM on the day your trip begins, in the lobby of the Red Lion Hotel, 621 21st St., Lewiston, Idaho. Lewiston is roughly 325 miles east of Portland, Oregon, and about 95 miles south of Spokane, Washington.
Lewiston is at the crossroads of highways 12, 95, and 195, in western Idaho, not far from the corner where Washington, Oregon, and Idaho meet. From Portland take I-84 past Boardman to US-730. Take US-730 into Washington, and turn right onto US-12. Follow US-12 through Walla Walla to Lewiston. Once in Lewiston, US-12 becomes Main Street. Continue east then turn right on 21st Street. The Red Lion is 1/10th of a mile further along on your left.
There's a regional airport in Lewiston. Service is provided by Alaska, Horizon, and Delta Airlines. Plan your flight to arrive the day before your river trip begins. The Red Lion Hotel provides free airport shuttle service to guests staying at the hotel. Their shuttle bus meets all flights.
3 day trips: Your trip fare includes transportation from our take-out point back to Minam at trip’s end. However, if you would rather have your car at takeout, shuttle service for your vehicle can be arranged through the Minam Motel when you arrive for your river trip. We have used them for many years, and have found them to be very helpful and dependable. Their charge to drive a vehicle from Minam to takeout is approximately $125.
5 day trips: Your trip fees include transportation to and from the river. A chartered bus will transport us from Lewiston to our put-in at Minam, a 3 hour trip. At trip's end we will be transported from our takeout at Heller Bar back to Lewiston, a one hour ride.
You will need to bring your own clothing and toiletries. You will also need to bring a tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad, although if you prefer you can rent them from us instead. (Info here.)
Details, tips, and a complete list of what to bring are found here. You will receive a copy of this information when you sign up for your trip.
Fishing on the Grande Ronde is often quite good for steelhead in the spring, and trout in the summer. If you would like to fish you will need an Oregon fishing license, which may be purchased at Oregon sporting goods stores or online at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's web site.
We select meadows and forest glens for our camp sites. Our guides establish a central kitchen and social area, and trip members select spots in the surrounding area to pitch a tent or roll out a sleeping bag.
The guides will set up a portable toilet at each camp, which will be located with privacy and convenience in mind.
O.R.E. practices minimum impact camping, and the crew will instruct you on the simple steps we follow to protect the river.
3 Day trips: The Minam Motel (www.minammotel.com), is located across the bridge from our meeting place. Their phone number is (541) 437-1111.
Barking Mad Farm is a 35 minute drive from our meeting point and offers gourmet farm-to-table-breakfast, and spacious suites available. Call them at (541) 886-0171.
In La Grande, The Best Western Motor Inn (541-963-4498) and Super 8 Motel (541-963-2925) are two of the La Grande options.
Camping is available at Minam State Park, a mile or so north of our meeting place.
5 Day trips: We recommend the Red Lion Hotel in Lewiston, which is our meeting place for the trip. For reservations phone 800-232-6730. They offer a discount to our customers, so be sure to tell them you're taking a river trip with Oregon River Experiences. For a lower price (but fewer amenities) we recommend Inn America (across the street from the Red Lion). Again, in order to receive the best rate tell them you are taking a river trip with O.R.E..
For camping try Hells Gate State Park, just south of Lewiston.
3 Day Trips: While in the area you may want to visit the beautiful Wallowa Mountains. Some of the Wallowa's many attractions are the Eagle Cap Wilderness, the towns of Enterprise and Joseph, and Wallowa Lake. For more information contact the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce at P.O. Box 427, Enterprise, OR 97828, (541) 426-4622. Also nearby is Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. For more information contact HCNRA at P.O. Box 699, Clarkston, WA 99403, (509) 758-1957.
5 Day Trips: While in the area consider a drive up Highway 12 along the Lochsa River. Along the Lochsa you'll find many lovely trails, good camping, and a number of excellent natural hot springs. Or pay a visit to nearby Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, the deepest canyon in North America. For more information on Hells Canyon contact the HCNRA at P.O. Box 699, Clarkston, WA 99403, (509) 758-1957. Also consider a visit to the Nez Perce National Historic Park just east of Lewiston.
Guests sometimes ask whether it is appropriate to tip their guide. Tipping is optional, but if your guide did a great job then feel free to thank him or her with a gratuity. The amount is up to you, but tips between 8% and 20% of trip cost are customary. Gratuities are customarily presented to the Lead Guide, and will be shared equally among all guides on your trip.
- Mild whitewater. A very relaxing trip.
- Beautiful forest and canyon scenery.
- A very good river for viewing wildlife, especially birds.
- Clear water, good fishing.
- Near Wallowa Lake and near Hell's Canyon National Recreation Area.
- Near: La Grande
- Trip Length: 3 or 5 days
- Meeting Time: 7:30 AM or 9:00 AM
- 2020 Season: May 1 - July
- Boat Options: paddle raft, oar raft, row-yourself cataraft, inflatable kayak
- Whitewater Rating: II+ (novice)
- Suggested minimum age: 6