Wild River

July 7, 2009 at 9:45 pm (The Most Wild Adventures) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

wild horses

“Wild” Horses along the Banks of the John Day River (near the backside of Horse Mtn, maybe they are wild, maybe not, but they certainly are an amazing site)

It’s neat to know there are still a few wild places on this planet. The John Day River is one of those wild places; it’s the second longest free flowing un-dammed river in the Lower Forty-Eight, as first place has already been given to the Yellowstone.

Three forks join together to create a cool and refreshing slice of paradise. With early summer temperatures creeping up towards the triple digits, getting in the river becomes more of a priority for many. The telephone down at Service Creek starts ringing off the hook, folks from all around can’t wait to get on that river, and they want to know details to each and every thought they have come up with. What is the camping like? Will my car be safe? Do you sell ice? Do you have towels in the Bed & Breakfast? What will the weather be like this weekend? Is the fishing good? Will the fishing be good next weekend? What will the River water levels be like in July?

You do your best to guess, but you can’t say for sure what exactly the water levels will be like in a few weeks. It’s a wild river, you tell the person on the other end of the phone line, there are no dams to control the flow. I think that’s what makes a trip down the John Day River even more special.

A couple of great friends and I floated the river just a few days ago. We put in at Service Creek in the late afternoon, with a cooler full of libations, a raft full of camping gear, and adventurous attitudes all around. As we meandered past hidden ranches and through channels of tall rim rock, we sipped on margaritas and floated along, dipping in and out of a few small rapids along the way. For the most part the river is made up of small Class I and II rapids, with just a few Class III thrown in the mix.

The largest rapids on the stretch we floated down this trip are called Russo or Shoofly Rapids, which amount to just a small bump in a raft, but let me tell ya, it’s a whole different story in a canoe, as I learned just a few weeks earlier. I will say, one of the greatest feelings I have experienced is that feeling that overcomes you when you are rolling down the rapids in your tippy canoe, water is spilling over the sides, and you realize you are going to flip over, because at that moment, all you can do is go with it and enjoy the ride. If only life were always that simple.

On our recent raft trip we floated a couple of hours that first evening, sailing past the first few occupied campgrounds. Just a few twists and turns later, and a small patch of sand lie up ahead on the left. It was decided that would be our camp. We pulled to boat ashore, fired up the propane stove (only gas fires are allowed this time of year), and cracked open some of those ice cold libations. The sun was about to set across the horizon. It would be a lingering twilight for us on this night, as the Solstice was just yesterday, the longest day of the year. Under the stars we slept until the sun crept in on the east. Our wet shorts hung above our camp in a tree, drying in the cool desert air.

shorts in the tree

The next morning we got the coffee going, put the poop bucket to use (mandatory to bring on multi-day floats), and headed back onto the water. We floated with dragon flies, passed horses running along the banks, and through the backyards of neighboring ranches. The sun heated up the afternoon and we all took a quick dip in the water before reaching our destination, the Twickenham Bridge. 13 Mile Trip. Water level of 1200 CFS. Five Hours Float Time.

*as published in the July issue of The Horsefly 

Strawberry Margarita Jam

My sister was out to visit last weekend, and she brought along her homemade Margarita Jam:

3 cups – Freshly Picked Strawberries, crushed

2 – Kiwis, cut into small chunks

¼ cup – Lime Juice, (she includes rinds also)

½ cup – Pineapple Juice

6 cups – Sugar

1 – 3oz packet liquid Pectin

½ cup tequila * optional

¼ cup triple sec * optional

My Sister prefers Pomona’s low sugar Pectin which is activated by calcium, instead of More Commonly Used Pectin that is activated by sugar. If using Low Sugar Pomona Pectin then ½ to 1 cup agave nectar or honey can be substituted for sugar.

Best to follow instructions on pectin box you are using, or…

Wash & rinse jars. Prepare fruit & juice. Bring fruit & juice to a boil add alcohol if desired. Add in sugar, boiling over medium heat, and stir vigorously until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to med-high and add pectin to boiling mixture, boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim foam off top, stir for 5 minutes to prevent floating fruit. Fill jars to ½” of top. Wipe rims clean. Screw on 2-piece lids. Put filled jars in boiling water to cover. Boil 5 minutes. Remove from water. Let jars cool. Lasts about 3 weeks once opened.



  1. Moon Over Martinborough said,

    It’s fantastic how rivers change, isn’t it. Nice story about a river. Thanks.

  2. Badger said,

    yep, mom is pretty darn cool for putting up with that! and that’s very sweet of you to put that recipe up..now when you feel like a margarita you can have a piece of toast!! hopefully i can come visit again.. afterall it’s always an adventure out there!

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