Owyhee River – Oregon
There’s this river…
…Not many have run it, and the odds are you’ve never heard of it.
Because of its remoteness. Though it courses over 346 miles, through Northern Nevada, Southwest Idaho and Southeast Oregon, it’s among the more remote commercially runnable rivers in the western U.S. (The nearest settlement to the put in, a place called Rome, which seems an ironic name for a place on the ghost end of ghost town.)
Because its flow is lower and more fickle—and its runnable window shorter—than most. If a river’s main stem is to a trunk what a tributary is to a branch, then the trunk of this branch is the well-known and voluminous Snake River. But unlike the mighty waterway into which it flows, this river is low volume, not big water, which, among other things, limits the size and type of watercraft with which one can navigate it. In addition, the window for running it is early in the season and short induration (usually two to three weeks in late April/early May), which means less predictable, likely colder weather conditions.
Because of these barriers to entry, this river remains known to few and run by far fewer still.
But to those who know it, for those who’ve run it, the Owyhee River must rank among the most incredible, unsung river trips in the Western United States—for it’s remoteness, for it’s scenic beauty, and for its rich natural and human history.
The Owyhee River is easily the most remote stretch of commercially runnable river in Oregon. There are no roads, no cell phone reception, no Wi-Fi, no nothing save the river, its canyons, the wildlife it’s home to, and those men and women who float its course.
What’s more, the Owyhee is a fantastically scenic trip. The river cuts its course through a magnificent high desert canyon, with bizarrely beautiful geologic formations resembling vast organic fortresses (see Pruit’s Castle), banked in by walls rearing up over a thousand feet, and every so often widening out to reveal large sandy beaches. It is hence, and justifiably, referred to as the Grand Canyon of Oregon.
Much like the Grand Canyon, the Owyhee also offers numerous side hikes—to Native American petroglyphs and cultural sites of significance dating back as far as 9,000 years, to long-abandoned ranches and homesteads of the Old West, to geologic points-of-interest, including Pruitt’s Castle and the Chalk Basin, and to the unspoiled riverside hot springs that adorn its canyon (with the right timing, at least one night’s camp comes complete with a hot-spring pool to relax in, which can be really nice on the brisk high dessert nights of April and May).
In sum, if you’re looking for a spring escape, consider running the Owyhee River with Orange Torpedo Trips. Our trips are small and the as season short as a few weeks. So, if what has been described here holds appeal, don’t delay; get in touch with us and be among the few to enjoy the Grand Canyon of Oregon on the Owyhee River.