Crossover Kayaking: The Lower Owyhee

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by jamonte, Jan 4, 2017.

  1. jamonte

    jamonte Paddler

    Aug 6, 2015

    (Note: to view trip photos, click on the link above. Once you're in Google Photos, you'll see three dots in the upper right hand corner, click on the dots and choose, "Slideshow." Once the slideshow starts, hit "Pause" and then you can use your cursor to advance photos at your own pace.)

    The Lower Owyhee was the fifth and final river trip I did on my 3 month road trip last year. It is located in SE Oregon, so it was on my way home from the Southwest. This river is very remote and its headwaters are in the dry, barren lands of SE Idaho and northern Nevada. Some years, the river basin doesn’t get enough snow to provide runnable flows in the spring. On my drive to the put in, however, I passed through some mountains in Nevada that had recently been hit by a snowstorm. I knew that as the temps warmed up, this snow would melt off and bring the river up, though I didn’t know how much.

    This was my first trip on the Owyhee, and I really didn’t know what to expect. I just knew that the Lower run was 50 to 65 miles long (depending on which take out you use) and that the rapids were class II to IV. As with all my other river trips, I didn’t pay to have my car shuttled down to the take out. Instead, I just launched at the top and trusted that I would be able to hitch a ride back to the top when I reached the take out. (My running joke was that my shuttle drivers were named Hope & Faith, but not their sister Charity since I always paid a full portion of the gas and shuttle costs to whoever gave me a ride out.)

    When I finally got to the put in at Rome, Oregon it was about 4:30 pm in the afternoon and I had no intention of launching so late in the day. But the sun was shining and the map indicated the river starts off easy so I thought, “What the Heck? Let’s do this!” So I launched at 5:30 pm with about an hour and a half of functional light left in the day… on a river I didn’t know… solo.

    I’m not going to do a day by day trip report because the captions under the photos tell most of the story, but here’s a quick summary of what I found over my six-day trip:

    *I loved the sense of history I got on this trip; from an old Pony Express Station, to a cattle rustler’s cabin, to 6,000 year old petroglyphs. The land here just feels timeless.

    *The rapids were a blast! The Owyhee is a very busy little river with continuous sections of splashy Class II rapids, interspersed with a handful of Class III/III+ rapids. The guidebook listed several drops as Class IV, but at the levels I ran it, I didn’t think anything was that hard and I only stopped to scout one drop, Whistling Bird.

    *The geology you see on this trip is unreal and constantly changing. There were incredible canyon vistas, several riverside hot springs, caves, arches, hoodoos, towering basalt cliffs, etc.

    *Most of the hikes on the Owyhee don’t have trails… you just set your sights on some distant goal and find your own way there.

    *If the flow is above 1,000 cfs, you’ll probably have company on the river, but even with the parking lot full of cars/trucks/trailers at the put in, the river didn’t feel crowded to me.
  2. mick_allen

    mick_allen Paddler & Moderator

    May 15, 2005
    simply magical. Thanks so much.
    To fool around at an event, do you unload ever?
  3. Layback

    Layback Paddler

    Nov 30, 2013
    Burnaby, BC
    Loved all the colours in the rocks. Beautiful land.

    Very nice photography.