River to Rails
When’s the last time you went on a train ride?
How about rafting and hopping a train, all in the same day? There’s a unique ‘River to Rails’ day trip in northeast Oregon where you can pull off this back-to-back float trip and choo-choo excursion.
You float ten miles of scenic canyon on the Wallowa River, with nice stretches of easygoing current to kick back and look for wildlife, sprinkled with class II rapids that aren’t too big, but still exciting. Whitewater sections include the Minam Roller, Red Rock Rapids, Blind Falls, The Chute and other wave trains. A perfect stretch of river on a summer day. I’ve done this trip several times, and it’s definitely unique to chug your way back up the river, looking out at the rapids you just paddled through. Passengers ride in the dining car on the train, with refrigerated drinks and snacks on board. There’s even a bathroom. Pretty deluxe, as far as shuttle rigs go. I’m hoping to get my nephews and niece on the trip this summer. I think it’s a perfect lineup for kids. Just when young ones might start getting restless after lunch on the river, you meet the train and there’s something new to spark their interest. The train ride back is also a good length. Just when the clickety-clack starts to bring on nap time, you’re back with plenty of time for a siesta before dinner. River to Rails trips run on Saturdays, from June 27 to August 1st, depending on river flows. You can take your own boat, or go with the outfitter Winding Waters River Expeditions, based in Joseph. There’s also a package that includes lodging at the Minam Motel, right on the river where the trip begins. More train info and photos of the Wallowa-Union Railroad and Excursion Train. It’s a good time. And the only chance I get to wear my waterproof conductor’s hat. Jon Rombach is a writer and river guide living in Oregon’s Wallowa County. His newspaper column, ‘And Furthermore’ is online at wallowa.com and ‘The Gearboat Chronicles’ rafting blog can be seen at windingwatersrafting.com.
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