Rafting between the canyon walls of the longest undammed river in the Northwest begins again every spring.

A federally protected Wild and Scenic River, the John Day flows for 280 miles from the Blue Mountains to the mighty Columbia River, through rich deposits of both human and natural history.

Palisades as high as 3,000 feet above the river give way to camping beaches at the edge of abandoned pioneer homesteads.

A careful look at nearby cliffs can reveal native Indian petroglyphs, ageless and ancient reminders of Oregon's earliest settlers. The scenic beauty is amazing.

For rafters looking for Class II whitewater, or an occasional Class III, the most popular portion of the river begins in Clarno and travels 69 miles downriver to Cottonwood Bridge.

Because this is not just a one-day adventure, your first trip should probably be with a river guide who not only knows the rapids, but who can prepare a tasty meal.

With no dams on the river, float levels and strength of rapids depend on weather. It's a good idea to check in advance with the BLM River Service Center in Portland, 503-261-9246 or the BLM-John Day Web site www.blm.gov/or/resources/recreation/johnday.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.