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John Day River

John Day River

The John Day River is the longest free-flowing undammed river west of the continental divide. This river is wild and remote, boasting the longest stretch of designated Wild & Scenic River in the nation. Over 150 miles of the John Day River are roadless and there are only a handful of places to launch boats.

Located about 30 miles due east of the Deschutes River, the John Day River flows north through a desert canyon to its confluence with the Columbia River. The land along the river is majority owned by large private wheat and cattle ranches, most of which are measured in the tens of thousands of acres. There are no towns or houses or roads along the river for mile after mile after mile. Motorized boats are not allowed, nor is there any way to access the river with any sort of vehicle, including aircraft. The only way to see vast stretches of the John Day is to float the river and this float is about as remote as you can get in North America.

The John Day is well known as a wonderful smallmouth bass fishery in the summer time and the river can be quite busy during June and July when most people float and camp. What most people don’t know about the John Day is that it hosts the largest return of wild summer steelhead in North America. Water levels dictate when the steelhead will be able to begin their upstream migration, and water is scarce in the desert until about mid-October. We guide overnight camp float trips for steelhead on the John Day from mid-October through early December and day steelhead floats from December through February.

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