North Fork John Day River

Area Status: Open

The North Fork John Day River means a lot of things to a lot of people. It is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River for its outstandingly remarkable values of scenery, historic, recreation, fisheries, and wildlife. It also flows through the heart of the North Fork John Day Wilderness. This section of the North Fork John Day River marks the transition between the foothills of the Blue Mountains and the high desert typical of eastern Oregon. The river winds through densely forested canyons and open stands of ponderosa pine and little evidence of civilization. At the turn of the century, the entire river valley was marked by gold mines and dredging operations. Miner's cabins and tailings are still seen today. Wildflowers are abundant in the spring and wildlife viewing is good year-round. There are 4 developed campgrounds and numerous dispersed campsites along the river corridor.With the fall comes big game and game bird hunting. Opportunities abound for everyone!

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Swift waters, use with caution
Open Season: Late May
Closest Towns: Dale, ORMonument, OR

General Information

Directions: 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 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 and travel another 21 miles. Take-out is near the bridge in Monument.


River and Stream Fishing

The river is a favorite spot with fishermen. Be informed of Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife regulations as there are special regulations for this part of the river.

Viewing Wildlife

Elk and deer frequent the area and birdwatching is popular.

Viewing Scenery

Many scenic views are available along this river.

Gold Panning

Boating - Non-Motorized

In the spring and early summer, some people like to float the river in rafts. Its rapids provide challenges for seasoned veterans and beginners alike. One of the most popular sections is the 40-mile piece from the town of Dale to Monument. Rapids on this section of the river are generally categorized as Class 2+ rapids. With higher water levels, the river takes on a Class 3+ character. Flow is very seasonal, with peak flows in late April to early June during snow melt, which is the best time for rafting. Flows in some places can be as high as 20,000 CFS, but an average flow is around 6,000 CFS. 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 posted notices regarding use and restrictions.


When temperatures climb in the summer, visitors like to take refreshing swims in one of the many deep pools or float along on inner tubes.

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities



  Area/Length : 
40 miles