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The Gearboat Chronicles

River to Rails

When’s the last time you took the family on a train ride?

OK . . . when’s the last time you went rafting and rode a train, back to back, all in the same day?

It’s not too common, I’ll grant you that. But the Winding Waters think tank likes to conjure up innovative, refreshing outdoor adventures with some zing, and this ‘River to Rails’ excursion is just the thing.

We thought about having Morgan give everybody wheelbarrow rides after a day of rafting, but the train just seemed more exciting. Morgan can’t push a wheelbarrow real fast.

River to Rails is a day trip, floating through ten miles of scenic canyon on the Wallowa River. The water has nice stretches of easygoing current to kick back and look for wildlife – then fun class II rapids every now and then that aren’t too big, but plenty exciting while still being safe. There’s the Minam Roller, Red Rock Rapids, Blind Falls, The Chute and some other, smaller wave trains. Lots of fun and a perfect stretch of river on a summer day.

You can paddle your own inflatable kayak if you like. Or ride in a raft. We stop along the way for lunch beside the river, then pull over in the early afternoon where the Wallowa and Grand Ronde rivers meet. That’s where the train comes in.

I’ve done this trip several times, and it’s definitely unique to chug your way back up the river, looking out at the rapids you just navigated a little while ago. We ride in the dining car, with refrigerated drinks and snacks on board. There’s even a bathroom. Pretty deluxe, as far as shuttle rigs go.

I’m going to get my nephews and niece out here this summer and get those little rascals on this trip. I think it’s perfect for kids. Just when young ones might start getting restless, there’s a train ride to spark interest all over again. And the train ride back is also a good length. They get a taste for train travel but it’s short enough that you’re back with plenty of time before dinner.

We can pick you up and get you back to Joseph by around 5 pm, or you can stay right there next to the river at the Minam Motel. Details are right here on this very website, under Rafting Adventures; Grand Ronde Day Trip.

If you want some more info on the Wallowa-Union Railroad and Excursion Train, check out eaglecaptrain.com.

The River to Rails trips are available on Saturdays, from June 27 to August 1st, depending on river flows.

It’s a good time. And the only chance I get to wear my striped conductor’s hat.