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The North Fork John Day River means a lot of things to a lot of people. To river rafters it means rapids that are challenging enough for seasoned veterans, yet easy enough (on the lower section) for beginners.

For floaters, one of the most popular sections of the river is from Dale to Monument. Rapids on this section of the NFJD are generally categorized as Class 2+ Rapids. At higher water the river takes on a Class 3-character.

The length of the journey is 40 miles and it winds through forested canyons and past several feed-in creeks. The NFJD is fed primarily by snowpack in the Blue Mountains so its flow is very seasonal. Peak flow is usually in late April to early June and in some places can be as high as 20,000 CFS. Average flow is around 6,000 CFS. The best time to run the North Fork John Day is in April and May when the flow is near its peak.

This section of the NFJD River marks the transition between the foothills of the Blue Mountains and the high desert country typical of eastern Oregon. The terrain is mountainous with open forest of ponderosa pine and little evidence of civilization. Wildflowers are abundant in the spring and walks into the hills above camp are well worthwhile. There are several dispersed camp sites along the route; however, they are located on private land. Please be respectful of other people’s property and adhere to the posted notice regarding use and restrictions.

The water is quite cold from the snowmelt, and the remoteness from civilization must be considered. The weather can turn cold unexpectedly with the possibility of frosty nights or snow flurries into June.

Directions: From Dale: There are several put-ins near Dale. To reach Dale, take highway 395 either south from I-84 at Pendleton or north from highway 26 at Mt. Vernon. There are a few campgrounds are located near Dale. To reach the take-out, follow highway 395 south for 26 miles to the town of Long Creek, then turn west to Monument - another 21 miles. Take-out is near the bridge in Monument.

Seasonal Access: Normally Open: Spring-Fall

Facility Type: River

What’s around here? Location & Nearby Things to See & Do

These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit tripcheck.com, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

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A related Trip Idea

  1. Blue Mountain Scenic Byway

    • Distance: 145 M / 233 Km
    • Minimum Driving Time: 3-4 Hours (There Are No Stations Between Heppner And Granite. Don't Let Your Tank Get Too Low)
    • Best Time to Drive: Spring And Fall; Summer Days Can Be Quite Hot And Winter Snows Close The Byway At Higher Elevations

    Back through pioneer history, up through the incredible scenery. An alternative to I-84 for east-west travelers between Arlington and Baker City. Charming towns dot the route, and outdoor recreational opportunities abound along the eastern leg.

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