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By Devon Barker. Learn more about Devon.

April 3 , 2006

Self-Support in my Hero

If dirt is good then mud is better when driving to the
Owyhee. The Owyhee Canyonlands are the grand canyon
of Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada. The local boaters often
say the drive is almost better than the whitewater.
Where else can you fine miles of mudding with mostly
sagebrush, creek crossings and a few rocks? Two sets
of chains and as many shovels as paddlers is a must
for any put-in drive.

I flew in from Santa Cruz, Megan picked me up and we
drove the 100 miles from the Boise, Idaho airport to
the put-in at Three Forks, Oregon on the Middle Owyhee
section. The last six miles were as intense as it
gets when 4×4. We were in 4high in the Dodge, wipers
going, 3rd gear and the country music blaring. As you
come over each rise you see a long stretch of three
ruts that you have to decide if you are going right or
left or you see the next creek crossing. My truck is
pretty heavy so I opt for speed, sliding, and never
letting up on the gas.

Once we made it to the canyon rim I let out a great
hoop and holler as I shifted into low and crept down
the rocky switchbacks to the river. This was the
start of my 27th self-support trip in the Owyhee

With my Hero in the back I decided this is the year to
take back my title of the Owyhee Princess- shovel and
chains in hand and a new pretty pink Jackson kayak!
Before I moved from teacher to freestyle paddler I
spent most of my paddling time with a fully loaded
kayak and my truck exploring mud, rapids, and canyons
in this remote part of the west.

The Middle Main Owyhee is mostly lots of class
three-boogie water with lots of class fours on the
first day. The climax is the class five Widow Maker
rapid on day two. This drop has three sections and I
have run the top and bottom many times but never the
middle with success. Maybe this year…

It was my first day in my Hero. It was so cold I
decided not to do a practice roll. I nailed my line
in Half- Mile but Raft Flip is right below it on a
blind corner. I missed a brace and had to roll. The
Hero is so easy to roll. It is just like the 2Fun. I
could not believe the ease rolling it. This boosted
my confidence. It is also a great self-support boat
as well. Everything fit and once on the water I could
not believe how well it paddled fully loaded.

It snowed the first day and the wind blew. We paddled
three hours to bomb shelter cave where we proceeded to
build a great fire in a firepan from all the driftwood
scattered along the banks and in the recesses of the
cave. The last night I spent there five years ago I
commented to my friend that it did not matter if
anything got wet as we were going out the next day. I
moved to the edge of the cave that night to see the
stars but awoke to rain. Famous last words, as I did
not make it out the next day. As we approached the
scout to Widow Maker there was a man wrapped with his
raft half-submerged in the middle of the rapid. We
spent the majority of the day helping our new friend
unwrap his raft and camped with him, as we were all
cold and wet and wanted to camp. Famous last words?
Well, my sleeping bag was a little wet and we were not
going out. The highlight of my teaching career was
radioing to sheriff’s small engine plane passing over
Widow Maker to call my school district to let then
know I was okay, but would need a sub for the Monday

Once I got to Widow Maker, five years later this time,
I could see a line similar to the character of a White
Nile rapid, but I seemed to remember another epic day
at this rapid when I was high siding for my brother
when he flipped his raft at flood stage ten years ago
and opted to portage the middle section.

Megan and I were gripped as we ran the top drop and
down to the portage. Megan stood in the water in her
dry suit as I lowered the kayaks over boulders down to
her using our waist throw belts. We hopped back in to
run the bottom of the drop. I cannot tell you how
great my Hero works for self-support and all the grab
handles make portaging much easier..

Arriving at the takeout my truck was there and so
covered with mud that you could not see the Jackson
Kayak sticker on the back canopy. We are headed back
to run the North Fork of the Owyhee next. Any takers?
This is the Grand Canyon without a waiting list! If
you want solitude and great rapids come along. You
can run sections or 200 miles of great rapids and
canyons with unforgettable 4x4ing! Email me if you
want to go….I’ll pack your shovel.

Thanks for my Hero EJ!





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Bombshelter Cave

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exiting last canyon

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Half-Mile Rapid

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Megan at Widow Maker

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Three Forks of Owyhee

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Three Forks Put-in