Owyhee River SUP Expedition


Paul Clark of Bend is beginning a most unusual journey on the Owyhee River this week. He and a partner intend to standup paddleboard more than 200 miles, starting near the headwaters in Owyhee to the canyons of Oregon. He'll be self-supported, carrying all he needs for what will indeed be a fascinating journey. Here, Paul shares on his journey through one of the most remote places in the lower 48. 
Learn more about Paul Clark and his adventure on his website: www.suppaul.com.

Right about now, I am starting a journey to take me deep into the wild. I'll be on the Owyhee River in the "heart of darkness," as it were, in one of the most remote river canyons in the Lower 48. Though there have been paddle boards on the more populated lower section between Rome and Leslie Gulch, this will be the first SUP-supported 200-mile descent of this wild river near its headwaters on the Nevada border. 

To view where we are in real time between March 23rd-31st, click here via Delorme InReach.

My paddling partner Torrey Piatt and I will be hitting the water in the Duck Valley Indian Reservation after a seven-hour drive from Bend via Boise on March 23. (Complicated shuttle logistics are made relatively simple for us by being dropped off by my wife who is continuing to Utah. We'll get a pick up from her in Rome, Oregon nine days later on her return. There are shuttle services that charge in excess of $800 for this.) With no dam controls, the river's water level is completely dependent on snow melt. This is the first year in a few where there has been enough water for commercial trips. There will be more than enough water for our paddle board expedition. In fact, we are expecting fairly high levels which should make for pretty exciting and fast paddling.

I have never been on the Owyhee, though its reputation precedes itself. In fact, it has been the river I have dreamed about from the beginning of my river SUP touring "career." Long, remote, wild, and with very few people are some of the attractions. Wild, in the sense it is free-flowing and has numerous rapids, some of which require portages around. Lots of Class IIIs, IVs, a few Vs punctuate the pool drop character of the river deep within canyon walls. People have died here. People have disappeared here. In fact, the name Owhyee is a bastardization of Hawaii, referring to Hawaiian explorers who were lost here over a hundred years ago.

There are three section of the main Owyhee: the upper, middle, and lower. We plan on running it all if time and logistics allow. 

The Upper is characterized by narrow passages, steep canyon walls, natural hot springs, and absolute remoteness. It's not easy to get to the typical put-ins, and more difficult to get out. We'll be dropped off near the town of Owyhee where we will begin floating through a shallow and braided waterway before making our way into the canyon. The few people who paddle here every year are in kayaks or small rafts. Portaging Owyhee Falls (Class VI) is known to be time consuming and exhausting even with the smallest of watercraft. Making portages more simple is one reason I love river paddle boarding.

The Middle section between Three Creeks and Rome is the most notorious section. Many difficult rapids including the fatal Widow Maker are here. Expert boaters look forward to this section. We are paddle boarding this section?! Yes, yes we are. Mind you, expedition river SUP isn't what most people think of paddle boarding. It's more like kayaking without having to rely on rolling to recover. 

The most popular section is the Lower between Rome and Leslie Gulch. Class III rapids give excitement to a 50-plus-mile stretch of somewhat accessible canyonlands.

Supporting businesses of this effort include: Hala, Kialoa, Sea to Summit, Astral, Garmin and Delorme.

--- Paul Clark