Owyhee May 1-5, 2010 Canon 148

In nature, certain places have a special power to pull in one’s soul.  The mystery of why these types of places have such a magical feel to the traveler that discovers them, may never be adequately expressed by words. Just as photos can never adequately paint a picture of those same areas. Only the human in real world experience can feel such things.  To me, the Owyhee River in SE Oregon, is one of those places that continues to suck me in each spring when the snow begins to melt.

Owyhee May 1-5, 2010 Canon 163

It is a time I relish, because this desert river only provides enough water to float in the spring time.   It is also a fickle time of year weather-wise, which in turn affects flows and boating. Crossing fingers, doing a sundance or raindance, maybe an incantation or two, and a lot of hoping help describe the waiting times for floating this river.

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For me, aside from winter steelhead fishing by driftboat, the Owyhee is the first extended, multi-day river trip we begin to run each year. It is our kick-off to another whitewater season, so it also means a lot of elbow grease working on boats and rafts to get the dust and cobwebs off.  The water levels of the Owyhee dictate which type of craft we will take, as hard boats do not do well in very low water conditions. Wood and rock are not a good mix when it comes to floating.   Rafts are better, but in extreme low flows, size of those critters are critical too.  Trying to squeeze a 7′ wide raft through a 6′ wide slot, is in the realm of a magic trick gone bad.

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Having floated this river for around 40 years worth of trips now, my back log of stories includes lots of personal relationships with a lot of rocks, hard places, and some experiences I am glad are behind me.  A lot of images come to my mind as I work on boats and visualize up coming adventures.  These same extreme experiences have given me a good backlog to evaluate water conditions and develop cut-off levels for determining what kind of boat or raft I will take for the next trip.  Reducing risk for potential problems from day one is the name of the game for minimizing problems and having more time to enjoy the canyon, rather than pulling rafts off rocks or putting bad dings in hardboats.

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So far, based on rare evidence of other party wreckage and carnage, I have been pretty lucky not to have the worst nightmare stories to tell, and I plan to keep it that way, as much as possible. Those kind of stories are better for someone else to have and tell. But, I do whisper all this, nare the river might hear my words and reciprocate by playing  tricks on me.

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But as I work on boats getting them shined up for the Owyhee, I can feel the river’s pull from this high desert sage plateau. I can even smell the pungent sage and feel the desert breeze wafting its aromatics across the wide expanses.  It is hard to put a finger precisely on just what that magic is that contains such a power.  It’s only a feel, and one must go there to really know what that really means.  All I know is that it exists, is real for me, and that it is calling now. Only a few more suns for trip number one on the Owyhee and soon magic will be all around as each oar grabs another foot of downstream progress.

Owyhee May 1-5, 2010 Canon 063

Always room for more

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