Floating the Wallowa

Jeff Northam - Thursday, March 10, 2016


With Monday off I took Whitman tennis alumni Colton and James Rivers (both graduated in 2015) for an afternoon kayak float down the upper stretch of the Wallowa River. When I say upper stretch I mean the 10-mile section from Lower Diamond Lane to the Minam Hotel.

This is a great way to spend the afternoon. Grant and Lottie at the Minam Hotel are incredible – friendly, helpful and they have a HUGE selection of gear for rental and purchase. We each rented an “I.K.” (inflatable kayak) for the float. For $40 we got a kayak and all the gear needed for the day (life vest, dry bag, paddle, & helmet). Honestly besides hiking I can’t imagine a better outdoor value.


Even with the chilly temperatures (still some snow along the river) we had an absolute blast. This section of the Wallowa (at least this time of the year) is mellow and makes for easy floating. Plus, the river has awesome scenery: we spotted a herd of deer swimming across the river, and many different types of riparian wildlife -- beaver sign, ducks, geese, hawks, and a few steelhead fishermen (thought I’m not sure if they are considered riparian).


Overall the float took about 3 hours. No real troubles on the float except when James “pushed” me into the river. OK he didn’t really push me in, I jumped out of my kayak to test out my dry suit. This is the suit I purchased for my winter rafting trip down the Colorado River (which unfortunately got cancelled).


For those looking for a great afternoon water adventure I highly recommend heading out to Minam for some time on the Wallowa River. I suggest calling the Minam Hotel and Raft Rental before heading out to make sure they have kayaks available (plus they will get them set up) 541-437-1111. Here are the directions from Walla Walla to Minam (about 90 minutes)