Spring Break Part II: Owyhee Country

Day 4

Leaving the comfort of our cozy yurt at Wallowa Lake, we hit the road. Destination – the middle of nowhere. Based on looking at maps and some light googling, I decided we should head to Leslie Gulch, a BLM wilderness study area near the Owyhee Reservoir. The Benchmark Atlas description of “unique rock formations, some towering more than 2000 feet above the canyon floor” sounded intriguing. Apparently the rocks are filled with holes formed by escaping volcanic gasses. Raindrops started to fall as we got closer to the area. We set off on a 25 mile long dirt road to the area and hoped for the best.

Succor Creek

The whole area we are passing through is open rangeland. If I were a cow, this would be a mighty fine place to be. At least now, in the lushness of spring. They looked pretty happy, and there were tons of cute little calves, often on the road. The land usually doesn’t fare as well. Thankfully, this area didn’t seem overgrazed, as is so often the case.

The pronunciation of Owyhee is interesting.The name of the river

is from the older spelling of “Hawaii”. It was named for three Hawaiian trappers, in the employ of the North West Company, who were sent to explore the uncharted river. They failed to return to the rendezvous near the Boise River and were never seen again. Due to this the river and its region was named “Owyhee”.


A sign informed us upon entry to the gulch that camping was allowed only at one designated campground at Slocum Creek. Once we got there we were pleasantly surprised. The campground was perfect, even relatively luxurious. Completely empty, located in an enchanting area, a brand new bathroom, garbage collection (!), and free!!

Slocum Cr Campground

Each site even had a (certainly for sun protection) shelter, so we could camp comfortably in the rain. Yay! Here I am glassing the hillsides for bighorn sheep (no luck) The herd is over 200 animals.


Day 5
The next day we took a hike up a side canyon called Juniper Gulch. If you are a 9 year old boy this is the ideal kind of trail.

D in Jgulch

This is the view back toward where we came.

Juniper Gulch

Later, back at camp, the boy displays his shell collection which has been growing since he started it in Hell’s Canyon.


Cool news! A new 517,000 acre wilderness area was just created on the Owyhee River as part of Obama’s omnibus bill March 30th, 2009. Right on!

That’s all for now, more to come.

    End of part 2

In the next installment: A place to die: The world of graves and fossils
Go to Part 1


7 Responses to “Spring Break Part II: Owyhee Country”

  1. 1 seldom seen May 4, 2009 at 5:44 am

    It would seem you have discovered some locales known only to a relatively few intrepid travelers. My favorite place to stop after days of stumbling around in the High Desert is Summer Lake Hot Spring, rustic and at the same time plush, from a tent camper perspective. It is forty miles north of Lakeview on the paved road that connects Lakeview to La Pine and Bend ( from 395 to 97).
    It’s origin as a place of business was as a bath house for the Basque livestock herders and ranch hands around the turn of the the previous century. Really nice hot mineral water, with a tin roof over head to keep out the wind and rain, once again, rustic yet plush. They have a website.

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