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The Gearboat Chronicles

38-mile Grande Ronde River day trips

That is what a roadless section of Grande Ronde looks like. Available now in bite-size daytrips.

The first salespitch I remember being nervous about was for a raft. A used yellow Sevylor at a garage sale. 5 person model. Apparently Sevylors are made by hobbits, because ain’t no five normal people fitting in that thing.

The raft was fifty bucks. I was a kid and did not possess fifty bucks. Looking back, I laugh at that because now I’m an adult and still don’t have fifty bucks. But I digress.

I pedaled my BMX bike back home in a fury, skidding to a halt in the driveway and then composing myself to seal this deal . . . had to have that raft. It could take me places. The Willamette River ran by our house and with a boat in reach I just didn’t see skipping rocks under Jasper Bridge as good enough anymore. Had to get on the water. Same deal when Paul, Penny and Morgan mentioned they might take me on with the Winding Waters crew. Excited.

So I casually exploded into the house and found Dad. Started laying out the glories of the Sevylor raft and all the many extras that came with this package . . . from the top-of-the-line footpump we later discovered to be a leaky bellows to the custom box for storing gear which was a crude plywood crate. A mere fifty dollars. What’s it going to take to get you into that Sevylor raft today, Dad? Think of the fun the family can have. The freedom. Deals like this only come along so often and you’ve got to reach out and grab that Sevylor, et cetera, et cetera.

I have the good fortune of having a dad that doesn’t need much convincing in the boat department. I took him back to that garage sale and that Sevylor ended up floating me and my friends down the river more than enough times to pay off that fifty bucks.

That reminds me. I don’t think I ever paid Dad back for that. Check’s in the mail, Daddy-o.

It’s prime day trip season right now here in our corner of eastern Oregon on the Grande Ronde River. Wait. Let me rephrase that. Day trips are always prime if you can’t pull off overnighters. But there’s a unique day trip window of opportunity open right now, with the Grande Ronde running high enough to scoot you through 38 miles in a day. And the wildlife viewing is awfully good right now.

There’s birdies.

And the bears are landscaping right now.

We put in at Minam, on the Wallowa River. Float ten miles and pick up the Grande Ronde flow, then another 28 to Mud Creek takeout above the town of Troy. Normally that run would take three days at summer flow, or a busy two.

Grande Ronde River mother and child enjoying the water.

Day trips on the Willamette as a kid in that Sevylor were high points growing up. I’d have to get the lawn mowed first, arrange the expedition and we’d have to talk one of our moms into picking us up at the end of the trip—but once we were on the water, it was all Huck Finn, exploring and there aren’t many things I wouldn’t chuck aside in favor of pumping up that old garage sale raft to push off down the Willamette and float for the day.

So get your chores done so you can go on a day trip while the Grande Ronde is up.