Highlights of the Owyhee River

by Michael Hughes

As we say our goodbyes to winter, and cheer for snow in the mountains, it is time to greet spring with a river trip that hasn't seen many people over the past few years. The past couple of years of low snowpack in much of the west, has left rivers like the Owyhee too low to raft. Well this year is different! The snowpack is looking good and many are headed to the Owyhee River for some spring rafting trips.

Blue Skies on the Owyhee River

Blue Skies on the Owyhee River

The Owyhee Canyonlands are known for there desert beauty, vast and rugged remoteness, and deep canyons. Coming from the mountains of Nevada and Idaho this pocket of Oregon desert offer endless exploration. The Lower Owyhee, as it is referred to by many boaters, is the most popular stretch of river the run. With about 50 miles of deep canyons, hot springs, great hiking, and fun rapids, There is a lot to take in. Here are some of my favorites.

Lambert Dome

This stunning ashy white and chocolate stripped done is a focal point of Chalk Basin. About 10 million years ago lava flowed over an ancient lake bed, baking the clay and mud into the now red rock layers. Hopefully you have time to hike here, so many nooks and crannies to explore.

Lambert Dome

Lambert Dome

Petroglyphs

Not far from the river, not on any maps, hidden amongst the rocks are some amazing petroglyphs. Dating as far back as 6,000 years old, these markings on the rocks mark human history along the Owyhee River.

Owyhee Petroglyphs

Owyhee Petroglyphs

Hot Springs

Not matter the occasion it is always nice to soak in some nice hot water and enjoy the scenery. You will find a couple different hot springs along the river. Some big, some small, but always relaxing after a day on the water.

Ryegrass Hot Springs

Ryegrass Hot Springs

Caves

Humans have been using caves for protection, and storing goods for ever. There are a handful a caves along the river. Some high in the canyon walls, others right along the rivers edge. Either way, we as humans still enjoy caves and there is even a camp inside one.

Cave Camp

Cave Camp

Iron Point Canyon

Vertical red walls coming right out of the water make Iron Point Canyon a memorable section of river. The erosion resistant, red rock walls are rhyolite. Made from viscous, sticky lava, these rock walls are iconic Owyhee Canyon.

Iron Popint Canyon

Iron Point Canyon

Hiking

There are a plethora of great places to hike up and out of the canyon. Hikers are rewarded with sweeping views of the desert landscape that surround the river canyon.

Looking down toward Pruit's Castle

Looking down toward Pruit's Castle

An Owyhee River trip is a reward for those looking for adventure. The deep canyons, remote and rugged terrain, and weather dependence give this special place a beauty like no other. This is a slice of Oregon like no other.

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Author

Michael Hughes

Michael grew up in a small Minnesota town. He spent his days outside in the woods and riding a bike. The only thing that has changed is his location. Oregon is now home and he is still outside, riding a bike, and paddling where ever the water is.

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