The Owyhee River
The Owyhee River is a 280-mile long tributary of the Snake River, carving a deep canyon as it runs. Surprising to some newcomers, the river flows south to north from Nevada, through Idaho, and into Southeastern Oregon before meandering back towards the Snake River. 120 miles of the Owyhee was designated to be protected under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act on October 19, 1984. The stretch we run is 65 miles between Rome, Oregon, and the Birch Creek Ranch historic site. There will be plenty of calm stretches to soak in the scenery, as well as several big water, Class III rapids to keep things exciting. The two stand-out rapids on the run are Whistling Bird and Montgomery. Whistling Bird has a cobble bar on river left pushed river to the right and raft guides have to follow the water flow and avoid the rock slab on the right. Montgomery, the most challenging rapid on the trip, is formed by the river constricting and dropping into a long boulder garden, which forces guides to navigate between rocks to get through the rapid. The only way to truly experience the beauty of this river is to join us on a 5-day guided rafting adventure.
The Name Owyhee
According to many stories, the name, Owyhee, is an early spelling of Hawaii. The area and river were named after the Owyhee’s, natives of Hawaii, who traveled to the area as part of Donald McKenzie’s fur-trapping expedition of 1819. The men were sent out trapping and did not return. McKenzie investigated and found one man murdered in camp, it is assumed by native Americans, and no sign of the others.
The Owyhee River Canyon Geology
The spectacular Owyhee River Canyon shows off 14 million years of exciting geographical history. The one thousand-foot walls towering around you as you float down the river were formed from massive volcanic events. These eruptions occurred 12 to 13.8 million years ago, and the explosive eruptions combined with glacial rivers slowly carved out the canyon for the last two million years.
Wildlife in the Owyhee River Canyon
The Owyhee Canyonlands is home to more than 200 wildlife species. There are golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, Swainson’s hawks, prairie falcons and swallows that nest all along the cliff faces. Antelope, the largest herd of California bighorn sheep in the nation, and mule deer gallop around the sagebrush plateaus. One of our favorite things about being in these desert canyons is the song of the canyon wren bouncing off the canyon walls while the sun shines throughout the morning.
Wet Planet is offering 5-day Owyhee River trips May 6-10, 2019 and May 13-17, 2019. For more information about the trip, click here.
Information in this article is from our expert Owyhee River guides, American Whitewater, wildowyhee.org, oregonencyclopedia.org and the Bureau of Land Management Owyhee, Bruneau, and Jarbridge Rivers Boating Guide.
Author Mikey Goyette leads Wet Planet’s Marketing team. When he’s not in the office, you can find him in his kayak on the river, or on the river bank playing Spike Ball.