Gourmet Gorging – Rafting The Bruneau in Idaho Read Jetsetters Magazine at www.jetsettersmagazine.com Read this entire feature FREE with photos at:: http://www.jetsettersmagazine.com/archive/jetezine/sports02/raft/bruneau/bruneau.html
When you look across vast sagebrush prairie of southwestern Idaho, Bruneau River Gorge looks like a small arroyo in distance. From floor of that gorge, however, world looks stunningly different. The red-brown horizon is almost directly above you, so steep are towering cliffs carved out by river. By way, don't stare upward too long, or that big wave in rapids directly ahead will tip you out of your raft for a nice, uh, invigorating swim.
This ribbon of snowmelt, fed by smaller Jarbidge River upstream, flows through southwest corner of Gem State. Wilderness River Outfitters operates trips on these and many other rivers worldwide, although their home base is on beautiful Salmon River in east-central Idaho. Joe Tonsmeire, a soft-spoken cowboy with a bushy grey mustache, has been guiding here with his wife Fran for 33 years, and they clearly love what they do.
Our adventure began in Boise, a pleasant capital city with its own scenic river. After a trip briefing and introductions all around, guides and guests went to a local brewpub restaurant for steaks and marionberry cobbler. One river guide, Kyle, collected on a wager: Tom, another guide, had bet that they couldn't fit all of their gear into pickup truck before a previous river trip. Sounds more fun than video poker...
Speaking of trucks, Joe told us a tale from a past trip: dirt road climbing out of Owyhee River Gorge is so steep and rough that rear axle in one truck completely stripped its gears, and vehicle had to be towed out of canyon. Trips like this are tough on vehicles. The story was evidently well known in town of Mountain Home, where we stopped for gas and a stretch during six-hour trip to our put-in point. The man at register asked, with a knowing chuckle, how truck was doing. Kyle reassured us that Joe had seen every kind of unplanned event in his time, and I joked about jinxing our group by saying, "Great! Nothing can happen to us, then."
The spring sunshine warmed our shoulders as we waited by gravel road for other pickup truck to come to our rescue. Two simultaneous flat tires - what are odds? Our driver Brad, an experienced wilderness survival instructor, helped pass time by showing us how to start a campfire without matches. We hoped this wasn't an indication of how long we might be here. Brad was here to deliver Suburban to take-out point after we had unloaded it at put-in. Soon replacement pickup arrived, equipment and supplies were transferred, and as we got moving again, we elected to speak no more about unplanned events.
I like this group! Bill and Jim, businessmen from Boise and Seattle, respectively, are brothers who enjoy hunting and rafting trips whenever they can get together. Anna, a nurse from California, had rafted with WRO previous year and proved to be an experienced paddler with a wry sense of humor. Clint, a baker from Sun Valley, Idaho, displayed great skill with a Dutch oven as well as with a paddle.