By Michael Lanza
The Wallowa River hisses and slithers past us like a fat snake with ill intentions. An urgent line of muscular waves emits a constant, low rumble on this June morning at the launch site in the tiny burg of Minam, Oregon. The outfitter who rented us our rafts informs us that this waterway and the Grand Ronde River, which we will enter nine miles downstream, are running high enough to whisk our two rafts down the course of this 45-mile, normally three-day stretch of whitewater in just 10 hours.
Then he tells us that the first bit of technical whitewater we’ll encounter, Minam Roller Rapids, has flipped several rafts in recent days—and its hole is “guaranteed” to toss us into the frigid, snowmelt-fed water, too, if we fail to make the turn there hugging the right riverbank tightly. That grabs our attention in a hurry.