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We spent 4 days floating down the John Day river in eastern Oregon in late June of 2006. Having never done a multi-day river trip myself, I wanted to find a river section with some lively water, but not beyond class 2, at least for the first trip. The 47 mile stretch between Service Creek and Clarno is known to be just this, and is popular for first timers. There are 3 class 2 rapids on this stretch, which proved to be no problem for us despite having lots of gear in an inflatable canoe (SOAR 16), as opposed to a raft. You just don't want to get sideways in a rapid, especially where the rapids turn and/or are next to cliffs. David, Karl and Alex rented a raft from the very helpful folks at Service Creek Stage Stop. Based on advice they gave us, we elected to take out 3 miles upstream from Clarno, at Clarno East, to avoid 3 miles of slackwater in potentially strong headwinds. We also put in 3 miles upstream from Service Creek, at Muleshoe.
This section had a decent amount of water, but I wouldn't want to do it much later in the year. We did scrape on some shallows, but not to the point of having to get out and drag the boat. It was a good mix of rapids, riffles and reasonably fast moving calm water. We only hit a couple of sections in late afternoon of actual still water that required genuine paddling to make headway. The water was warm and swimable. In fact, because it was so hot we actually didn't want to get out of the water at times. No biting bugs though.
This trip is about half agricultural land and half Basalt canyon wilderness, with pretty spectacular scenery. A few glimpses of the Painted Hills were found. Lots of interesting wildlife including deer, river otters, vultures, hawks, swallows nesting in cliff holes and the like. It was *very* quiet the whole time except for birds and the sounds of rapids. The Milky Way was plainly visible each night.
Overall, we averaged about 14 miles a day, and ended up with a short day at the end in an effort to get home that day at a reasonable hour. The ranger was there to greet us on taking out, and wasted no time in asking us for our permit and to see our portable latrine.
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