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The Gearboat Chronicles

Lining the Narrows

The lower section of the Grande Ronde River has an exclamation point after running for most of its course with water and rapids that, for the most part, aren’t too difficult to row.

Then you get to the Narrows. Dun-dun-duhhhh.

The Narrows is a Class IV, formed by rock shelves on either side with a skimpy slot down the middle. Here’s a picture of the river just above where it all gets channeled in. Take a look at how broad the water is. Sure, it’s shallow, but that’s a wide river right there.


The before picture shows us easing the raft down with ropes just above where things get busy.

And here’s what it looks like after the squeeze. Daaaang.


That there is Mark Porter on the right, weed samurai. We were down there with Porter and his cohorts to spray and inventory invasive plants.

I tried to help by finding plants, then calling out to one of the biologist folks, “Hey, I think I found some blah-blah-blah over here. A real nasty one, too.”

They would say, “You sure? That usually grows in a riparian area, not way up on a hill where you’re asking me to climb in the baking hot sun.”

“Pretty sure.”

So they’d trudge up the hill and look at my invasive weed specimen. Pause. Wipe the sweat from their brow with a squeegee. Sigh ever so slightly. Then say, “Well, what you have here is a something-something-Latin-name-something. Commonly known as a dandelion.”

I’m really not very good at identifying noxious weeds. I should be, since they’re all over my yard. But I’m not. So I went back to rowing boats. And then attaching ropes to the raft when we got to the Narrows, since there’s not enough water to maneuver with oars so you line them through to avoid getting sideways and having the current wedge your raft against the rocks.

Here’s the expression most boaters get when seeing the Narrows for the first time at low water.


That’s Silje Christoffersen. Winding Waters guide and former Chief Joseph Days Rodeo Queen – which was handy because she taught me some rope handling techniques from her horse background. I was coiling line like you normally do, but when the raft takes off in that current the line pays out pretty quick and she had a safer method where your fingers don’t get in danger of taking off with the rope. Good to know.

Here’s Porter doing some fancy rope work. And this isn’t even the really narrow spot.


This is between the upper and lower squeeze points where it’s broad enough to float to the next tricky point.


I’ve been through here a couple times before when the water was high enough to be over the narrow spots. It’s a confused patch of water with some trouble rocks and a little drop. The upper part is just some waves at high water, so I wasn’t aware the ‘s’ in Narrows is there for a good reason, since it’s multiple narrows spots. Good to know. It wouldn’t be too fun to miss the scouting spot and drift into this scene without knowing your oars would be useless.

It was actually kind of fun. We lined three boats through and had a nice swim at the bottom after some sweaty times running along the rocks.


River slows down a bunch after the Narrows and it takes some rowing to get down to the takeout. Here’s a shot looking back at Porter in the Bridge Rapid.


That lower stretch has a lot of charm. It’s groovy to go from forest up high down to more of a desert scene on the lower end.

My, but that Grande Ronde is a pretty river.