The John Day River has no dams to control water flow; therefore flow levels fluctuate widely in relation to snow pack and rainfall. When planning a trip, it is helpful to consider the Long Term Flow Forecast, which is updated regularly, and the historical average flow levels available on the Summary Hydrograph (select the 50% exceedence level).
- Current River Flow at Service Creek from the USGS.
- Short Term Flow Forecast and Long Term Flow Forecast by NOAA.
- Summary Hydrograph
- Snow Pack Information
- Other USGS Gauges: North Fork at Monument, John Day at McDonald Ferry
The difficulty of rapids varies with river flow level. Prior whitewater boating skills are necessary to navigate all sections of the river. The most popular multi-day float trips are
- Service Creek to Clarno: Class II-III - 48 miles, average trip length = 3 days
- Clarno to Cottonwood: Class II-IV (Clarno Rapid III-IV) - 70 miles, average trip length = 5 days
Recommended minimum flow levels are
- Drift boats: 800cfs
- Inflatable rafts: 500cfs
- Canoes: 300cfs
- Inflatable kayaks: 200cfs
Clarno Rapid (III-IV) can be unrunable at low water; scout left, portage on either side, line right. Canoeists floating at levels above 2,500 cfs should have whitewater experience and carry floatation bags.