John Day River—Service Creek to Clarno

May 29-31, 1982

On Saturday the first annual John Day Float and/or Swim Trip started down the river from Service Creek in bright sunshine. We were 17 in number in three rubber rafts, four canoes and one McKenzie River boat. As we started, my main concern as leader was that the river was high and fast and one of the canoes was wooden with about 1 7/8 inches of freeboard. We also had two people with all their gear for three days crammed into a rubber raft about six feet long. The rubber on this raft was about the thickness of a plastic garbage bag. As it turned out I should have worried about the aluminum canoes. The wooden canoe and small raft did great. The aluminum canoes took a beating. Russo Rapids was the first of three major rapids on this stretch of river. Everyone made it o.k. so we felt relieved as this was supposed to be the worse of the three rapids. Late in the afternoon we came to Wreck Rapids and the name should have given us a clue as to what lay ahead. I went through first in my large raft and as I looked back at the bottom of the rapids I would see that all four canoes were swamped at the same time. We camped a mile below the rapids and we were all wet. Even though I was in a large raft my right leg was soaked clear up to the ankle. When I pointed this out to a couple of canoeists they almost threw me into the river.

The next day our last major rapid was Burnt Ranch Rapid. Again there was some swimming by one couple in a canoe. Because of the speed of the water they went over a mile before they could get out. Both were in good spirits because they had managed to keep their hats dry. That night we camped across the river from the Bhagwan’s Ranch. All evening long we watched the red clad followers as they watched us. Unfortunately the river was so wide all we could do was wave to each other. We were out of the river at Clarno and back to Eugene by 5:00 p.m. the next day.

This was an excellent group of people. The river was great for raft or boat but not canoe. Still, each person took it in stride with good humor and it was a real pleasure for me to have been a part of this group which included Henry Davies, Margaret Crosland, Tom Donnelly, Fran Gnose, Lee Hatch, Jeanie Holmes, Bea Fontana, Christine Ligneau, Charlotte Mills, Sal Milo, Leona Mattson, Gene Thaxton, Chris Shuraleff, Bridget Striker, George Williams, and Pat and Bob Dark, leader.

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