Where is the far beyond? This is a question with an answer just as far away, quite out of reach by human understanding. But there is a river where one can go and might find a far easier answer to that question. At least that is what the Nez Perce called the Grande Ronde River in Northeastern Oregon: “River that flows into the Far Beyond.” All their answers to many great mysteries were found there.
We do five-day float trips on the lower 100 miles of this beautiful river, and at the bottom end it has enough goose-neck bends to seem like never-ending turns with a new view around each one. Never ending beauty also adds to this same feeling of having entered an arena of inexhaustible wonder. Various landscapes are encountered along the way, from a thick forest of pine and fir in parkland like stands at the top, to subtle changes along the route, finally entering the more arid environs of open rimrock canyonland territory.
Rapids are never too demanding, except for a place or two at very high water. Most is just good solid fun without worry of changing your underwear after the run. In between the whitewater sections are placid pools and quieter water where more time can be used to study the hillsides for wild animals that frequent the canyon. Many elk and deer can be found on mid elevation benches taking advantage of spring green-up for those who float the river early enough.
This river is a product of the Wallowa and Elkhorn watersheds, both draining from the massive shoulders of sawtooth mountains that kiss the sky. Snow melt gives rise to peak run-off sometime in late May and early June, depending on weather and annual precip conditions. But even when the river runs at the average peak flows, it is fast and furious, but not terribly difficult, and definitely not terrifying. There are not many eddies, and the current is fast, so one need pay attention, all the same. Specially when camp is ready to be made, it sometimes means an adventurous landing.
Not only is the corridor of escarpents and lava layers overlying steep benchgrass slopes, but so too is the area steeped in a colorful history of the two cultures who discovered the hidden trearues at staggered timelines of progression. It is easy to see why the Nez Perce made a part of this terrain their esteemed homeland, as well as why early exlporers and homesteaders found similar reasons to seek security in the same places. Later modern day explorers, like Buzz Holmstrom, who then began floating these waters early on, established yet another course in riverine history and is an additional subject we like to explore during our float trips of current times.
Side hikes to ridgeline and hillsides with a kaleidoscopic fill of colorful wildflowers can seem like jumping through the Looking Glass wth Alice in wonderland. It is like a different world, only it doesn’t take a Looking Glass to appreciate, just a boat to reach those places and hiking boots.
When waters calm down and flows are on the backside of the peak, fishing becomes good again, for rainbow trout and smallmouth bass. The additional advantage of this river for fishermen is the pool to riffle ratio that creates ideal situations for the fish to occupy. So for fishermen who can read water, there is a story behind every appropriate rock.
This family oriented river also has great campsites where one can sit back and absorb scent of the pines waft with the coffee and bacon smells off a morning campfire, too. It is a great way to start a fun-filled day, and 5 days is too short, but better than none. And the only way to get close to the far beyond is to take the first step forward. All these rest will soon fall into place.
Let your fingers begin the walking to start the floating: 208:628-3523