Northeast Oregon is known for its natural beauty, from snow-capped mountains to crystal clear rivers. However, one natural asset that is often overlooked is its grasses. The Wallowa Valley region is home to some of Oregon’s richest grasslands and oldest ranches, raising grass-fed cattle long before it was popular. In fact, the high-altitude grass here is so rich in protein, it’s shipped to Kentucky and Japan to fuel top race-horses. Long ago, ranchers recognized this prized grass and set up ranching here. Today, two of these nearly century-old ranches produce some of the best grass-fed beef in the world: the Carman Ranch and the 6 Ranch.
Jump forward 100 years and along comes a local rafting company in northeast Oregon that uses this great beef on its river trips, along with other locally produced foods. In fact, one of the ranchers from the 6 Ranch even guides with the outfit. So, the owners, Paul and Penny Arentsen, brainstormed a way to celebrate this local food source with their guests. What better way than to visit the ranches themselves, then take everyone on the river- all in one trip! With this idea in mind, Paul and Penny searched for a partner to help put the trip together. They pitched it to a Portland pro: Erica Polmar with Plate and Pitchfork, a company that provides farm to table dinners prepared by known Portland chefs. It just so happened that this year is Plate & Pitchfork’s 10th Anniversary and Erica was looking for a special trip to celebrate. So, as they say, the rest is history!
Here’s a little about the trip: for a “Taste of Place” in beautiful, verdant Wallowa Mountain country, join Winding Waters River Expeditions, Plate & Pitchfork, and 2 of Portland’s top chefs: Chef Benjamin Bettinger of Beaker & Flask and Chef Jason Barwikowski of the Woodsman Tavern on a 4 day food extravaganza! You’ll spend the first day of your adventure on dry land. While you tour the ranches you’ll learn about the art and science behind raising great beef exclusively on pasture, and some of the tools of the trade like cow dogs, horses, and flying lariats. If you’re feeling daring you might just find yourself roping a calf. Your day will end with a traditional branding-style BBQ prepared by Ben and Jason. On day two you’ll head into Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America. Your days will be filled with thrilling class III and IV whitewater, incredible scenery, wildlife viewing and fishing opportunities. And as long as you don’t toss the chefs out of the boat they’ll be happy to prepare gourmet lunches and dinners for you for the duration of your trip.