Opening a new home

By Observer Upload April 05, 2013 11:17 am


Paul Arentsen works on Winding Waters Rafting’s new boathouse in Joseph on the Imnaha Highway. The retail shop opens May 1, and the grand opening is May 18. Katy Nesbitt/The Observer
Paul Arentsen works on Winding Waters Rafting’s new boathouse in Joseph on the Imnaha Highway. The retail shop opens May 1, and the grand opening is May 18. Katy Nesbitt/The Observer

Winding Waters Rafting opens new storefront in Joseph 

by Katy Nesbitt/The Observer

A new storefront opens May 1 in Joseph giving a long-established business a new home base.

This winter, Winding Waters Rafting bought a Quonset hut on the Imnaha Highway. The crew has spent the last several months hunting up everything from French doors to barn wood to renovate the inside.

Co-owner Penny Arentsen said the former Eastern Oregon Fence and Feed building suits the raft company to a “T.”

“This building fits because the retail and boat house are in one spot,” said Arentsen.

For the past eight years, Winding Waters’ boat house and headquarters was at the Arentsens’ house a few miles outside of Joseph. The new site not only gives them more visibility for potential customers, but it simplifies gearing up for trips.

All food and ice deliveries will now come right to their downtown shop. Food will be prepped in their kitchen, and Arentsen said the guides will have access to bunks and showers.

“It will be easier for crews and clients,” said Arentsen.

The shop, a new addition to the business, will be open seven days a week, May 1 through Sept. 30. Customers can get information on the three rivers they guide, or shop for T-shirts, hats, water bottles, outdoor gear, specialty blown glass by Brent Wydrinski and custom-made pottery by Ted Juve.

Arentsen said the “big thing” they are adding are hydro flasks — metal bottles that keep drinks hot or cold for 24 hours — like a thermos on steroids.

Jumping on board a popular past-time, Winding Waters will be renting Stand Up and Paddle boards that can be used at Wallowa Lake.

They will also be selling Lynne Sampson Curry’s “Pure Beef” cookbook, which highlights grass-fed beef, different cuts and mouth-watering recipes.

When it comes to food, Winding Waters is like a floating gourmet smorgasbord.

Arentsen said their guests are always amazed at the delicacies offered in camp. Masters of Dutch-oven cooking, guests become familiar with their famous pineapple upside-down cake and breakfasts of fresh produce, much of it bought from local farmers.

“There are more folks now with greenhouses. We buy from a consortium of farmers in Wallowa and the 6 Ranch,” said Arentsen.

Winding Waters gets beef from both the 6 Ranch and the Carman Ranch, eggs from local farmers and their own chickens, and they’ve even started raising their own pigs.

“We recycle our leftovers off the river and feed it to the pigs,” said Arentsen.

This year, guests will be breakfasting on bacon and ham grown out of the Arentsen’s back door.

“Food is a big part of our business,” said Arentsen. “We’re like a roving

Some of Arentsen’s favorite dishes are their chicken green curry, fresh-caught salmon, and Turkish breakfasts with fresh vegetables.

Though every river trip is a foodie’s delight, this summer Winding Waters features two specialty trips. Chefs from Noble Rot of Portland will cook on a Salmon River trip, and the Plate and Pitchfork trip will have chefs from The Imperial of Portland cooking on a Hells Canyon float.

Arentsen said before each trip the crew meets with their guests for a pre-trip meeting and all one-day and fishing trips will start from the new boathouse as well. 

With only a week left of steelhead season, guides Tom Farnham and Jon Rombach are getting the last of the fishing trips in, but will be guiding everything from trout to bass this summer — and back to steelhead in September.

In the fall, Winding Waters offers a couple options — self-supported fishing trips where crews set up and break down camp as well as fully guided trips with expert fishers.

Like a lot of their crew, Farnham and Rombach have been with Winding Waters for a lot of years. Some members, like Joseph Harshman, Silje Christoffersen and Patrick Baird, have almost grown up on the rivers, starting as high school kids working as swampers loading and unloading boats and setting and breaking down camps.

A couple of their guides, Craig Nichols and Todd Kruger, carry their guitars along, and co-owner and seasoned guide Morgan Jenkins brings drums for campfire sing- alongs.

“A lot of locals have worked with us since the beginning. Our guides are the heart and soul of our business,” said Arentsen.

This spring, Arentsen said they are offering a Spring Bloom trip focusing on photographing the canyon’s fauna. They also partner with Del Sol Outfitters for a Paddles and Saddles trip where guests float the Snake River for part of the trip and spend a few days horseback riding in the wilderness.

As the crew puts the finishing touches on the boathouse, their talents are turning to art. Arentsen said they are looking for old, hard shell, whitewater kayaks for a sculpture they are creating. Maybe they’ve hit on a new draw to a town known for its bronze statuary.

For more information on Winding Waters Rafting, visit their website at or call 877-426-7238.