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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

John Day River

Due to low water, vehicle access to the river at Starvation Lane is closed until the fall by Oregon State Parks. An online launch permit is required year-round and available here to boat all sections of the Mainstem downstream of Spray. Permits to boat upstream of Spray are encouraged and available here and at launch points. The number of launch permits issued in 2017 will not be limited, so it is not necessary to obtain your permit until close to your launch date. Once issued, don't forget to confirm your permit between 10 and 30 days prior to your trip. Permit fees are non-refundable.

Water Flow

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).

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.