The Owyhee River flows
through one of the most remote regions in North America. The Canyon-lands of the Owyhee River system is one of the largest unspoiled areas around. The Owyhee River greets one with impressive canyons that rise as much as two-thousand feet above the rivers’ edge. This river has embraced some of the most spectacular, rugged and little known country in the states.
The Owyhee River lies in the southeastern corner of Oregon. On an Owyhee trip one may encounter a band of California bighorn sheep, a dozen kinds of wildflowers, an unexpected waterfall or one of the area’s numerous hot springs. One may also see some of the endangered species that reside in this area, like the peregrine falcon. Other wildlife that may be seen are the pronghorn antelope, elk, deer, cougars, sage grouse, eagles and many others.
The Bureau of Land Management in the area describes the Owyhee region as “The most rugged, remote and least known high desert canyon complexes in North America, the Owyhee Canyonlands are also perhaps the most spectacular.” The Main stem Owyhee was federally designated as Wild and Scenic in 1984 and was additionally listed as an Oregon Scenic Waterway in 1970. This region is so remote that the entire Owyhee Canyonlands encompass over 5 million acres with just 3 paved roads!
The human history in this area stems back to more than twelve-thousand years ago. The Owyhee Canyonlands have been a home to Native Americans for thousands of years. Evidence of their existence can be found in the many pictographs, petroglyphs and artifacts that were left behind from them. Since the white man settled this area more than two-hundred years ago, agriculture and grazing had been abundant for many years. Still today, one may spend hours exploring side canyons, old ranchers cabins and of course, rewarding themselves with hot springs soak! The Owyhee River was named by Peter Skene Ogden in 1819 when two of his fellow trappers were killed. The river was named after them and the word ‘Owyhee’ is a 19th century spelling for Hawaii.
The many canyons of the Owyhee River system are some of the most awe-inspiring & sensational landscapes in Oregon. The multi-colored cliff walls often rise over a thousand feet from the edge of the river. The canyon rims are often eroded with many colossal spires, while in other areas the canyon calls reach towards the sky displaying a variety of stunning colors. There are numerous side canyons that offer a mysterious element of adventure as they twist out of sight.
Some of the most notable landscapes include the Iron Point Gorge, waterwheels, Sentinel Canyon, Montgomery Gorge, Mahogany Mountains, Weeping Wall, Rustler’s Cabin, Bogus Creek Falls, Pruitt’s Castle and the Chalk Basin/Lambert Rocks. The many great scenic aspects of this run are accompanied with petroglyph fields, honeycomb cliffs, fossils, hot springs and scrumptious meals. These alone will help create some of the fondest memories you will ever have. Exciting rapids like Whistling Bird, Montgomery, Artillery, Bull’s Eye, Rock Dam, Rock Trap, Upset and many more will eagerly challenge you!
The Lower Owyhee is only runnable from late March through early June! This is a very special area of Oregon that is truly like no other. We highly encourage that you spend a few extra days on either end of your trip to visit some of the area’s other gems. A few of our favorites include: Crane Hot Springs, Jordan Craters, Pillars of Rome, Leslie Gulch, Succor Creek & Silver City.