Grande Ronde River – 7 Days Minam to Heller Bar by Packraft & Canoe [Video]

We enjoyed paddling the Grande Ronde so much last year, that we just had to do it again this year, this time paddling 91 miles over 7 days from Minam, Oregon down the Wallowa and Grande Ronde Rivers to Heller Bar, Washington on the Snake River.

This National Wild and Scenic River offers tons of white water up to Class IV, including the following key rapids:

  • Minam Roller (II)
  • Red Rock Rapid (II)
  • Blind Falls (II)
  • Sheep Creek Rapid (II+)
  • Martin’s Misery (II)
  • Double Eddy Rapids
  • Upper Narrows (III)
  • Lower Narrows (IV)
  • Bridge Rapids (II+/III)

Four of us paddled Alpacka packrafts (Classic and Expedition models), and one paddled by canoe.

Water levels on the Grande Ronde Wild and Scenic River ranged from 4600-5400 cfs.

This trip in mid-April had greener hillsides, which brought out more wildlife than we saw last year in late-June. This year’s wildlife sightings included bald eagles, river otter, a band of bighorn sheep and hundreds of elk.

Logistics for Floating the Grande Ronde River

  • The BLM has excellent information on floating the river on their website and Boating Information PDF.
  • A boater’s permit is required to float the Wallowa and Grande Ronde River.  You can fill out the free self-serve permit available at the put-in.
  • Check the river’s flow forecast from NOAA.
  • The American Whitewater page for Grande Ronde Minam-Troy, Troy-Boggan’s Oasis and Boggan’s Oasis to Heller Bar have useful information.  We floated all three sections.  We only saw two other parties floating the river during the first 2 days.
  • American Whitewater recommends flows in the range 1000-13,000 cfs.  Our trip ranged 4400 to 4500 cfs.
  • The BLM publishes a detailed Boater’s Guide with detailed river maps.  You can purchase this at Minam Store, or BLM offices.  Or, download it to your phone here.
  • Some of the surrounding areas are agricultural and range land.  You should pack all of your drinking water.  I consumed about 3-4 liters/day.
  • You are required to carry out all human waste.  I used Cleanwaste GO Anywhere bags stored in a dry bag.  Bring additional TP and hand sanitizer to supplement the tiny amounts that comes in these bag.  Those with larger boats should consider carrying something similar to the Cleanwaste Go Anywhere Portable Toilet.
  • Campfires need to be contained in fire pans.  Be prepared to cook on stoves.
  • Bring binoculars to scout for wildlife up on the hills.  You could see mountain sheep, elk, deer, snake, eagles, sand pipers and lots of other birds.

One Response to “Grande Ronde River – 7 Days Minam to Heller Bar by Packraft & Canoe [Video]”

  1. Sylvia Cunningham says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed your video, Brad. It was beautifully shot and seemed to cover the high points of your trip. I can see why you did it again this year. Thanks for sharing it.

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