Trail Butter Pro, Adam Edwards, looks back on a Spring trip down the Owyhee River. Adam is a whitewater kayaker, arborist, and Trail Butter Pro based out of Portland, Oregon. I spend most of my free time exploring remote river canyons and chasing flow around the Pacific Northwest. When Adam isn't working with trees or floating down rivers, he dedicates his time and voice as an advocate for BIPOC inclusion in the outdoors.
The Owyhee canyonlands are the ancestral lands of the Paiute, Bannock and Shoshone Tribes. A rich desert landscape sculpted by eons of desert winds and weather they offer a stunning and wild window into what this land has to offer. I was fortunate enough to go on a 3 day 2 night kayaking trip through the Three Forks to Rome section of the Owyhee River.
Generally a class IV section of whitewater, with one class V, we had unseasonably (see the "new normal ") low flows. While most groups would recommend 1000-4000 cfs (cubic feet of water per second) we had about 220cfs. This meant that there was a high likelihood that some of the rapids and stretches we hoped to paddle might've been impassable and we would have to carry our kayaks around them.
What we discovered was that the Canyons of the Owyhee are stunning, regardless of the water level. This we found out immediately after rounding the first corner and set of rapids. We found enough water to pass through uninhibited and were rewarded with breathtaking vistas.
The canyon is home to an inordinate number of geese and their goslings this time of year (mid-Spring), as well as numerous other bird species. Every turn brought new views and there was rarely a pool that did not stir with fish turning over to feed on the various bugs flitting about at water level.
While initially we had been apprehensive about the water level we found that it provided numerous sandy beaches to camp on that otherwise would've been underwater at "proper flows."
No adventure is without its hijinks though. All that sand meant that eventually it found its way somewhere it shouldn't be. Our stove didn't survive the high winds that kicked up around dinner each night and we found ourselves, carefully, cooking by open flame.
Gathering driftwood in a low water year is difficult- all of it has already moved downstream with the early season torrential floods. We saw evidence of this on every bank. We gathered enough dry reeds, broken shards of wood to start a fire for our last dinner and breakfast. Throughout the trip our small fires, contained in a smaller fire pan we folded and unfolded carefully each night, brought us warmth and contentment.
The cool desert nights reminded us of fall kayaking trips. And our Spiced Chai Trail Butter complimented the fall in summer vibes we felt each night and morning as we donned down jackets and wool socks to enjoy our meals.
It has been a blast sharing a part of this journey down river with you all! Continue to follow me downriver at @adamchechireedwards. See you on the water!