There are more than 250 miles of navigable river in the Owyhee Canyonlands! Each section offers abundant hiking opportunities, wildlife, whitewater, pioneer history, and an extraordinary glimpse into geologic time. Spring on the Owyhee during the snowmelt runoff is truly glorious: the wildflowers are blooming, the red-wing blackbirds are singing, and the rapids get exciting. A hike to the canyon rim to spot an antelope in the distance, an eagle chasing its prey, or just to admire the “awesome vastness” of this country is often a trip highlight. We can also venture to historic trapping and homestead cabins along the way and marvel at the determination of those who carved out a living in this rugged country.
The Owyhee River’s reputation as a big-time whitewater river is well deserved, but there is a quieter side to these beautiful canyons, especially in the Middle and Upper sections. Between rapids there are long, calm stretches of water, allowing us time to listen to the river and take in the sheer walls of red-gold rhyolite towering thousands of feet over our boats.
In 2009, the Owyhee Initiative designated 317 miles of the Owyhee and Jarbidge-Bruneau River systems as wild and scenic. The same legislation designated 517,000 acres of the surrounding land as wilderness, protecting these rivers and the landscape encompassing them.
We have extensive experience on the Owyhee, and all the different sections and access points to these river canyons create endless possibilities for customizing your trip. Ask us for details and we can help make sure you get the trip you’re looking for!
We break the Owyhee into three sections: Upper Owyhee, Middle Owyhee, and Lower Owyhee.
The Middle Owyhee
The Middle Owyhee flows from Three Forks to Rome, an impressive and wild stretch of river that makes up some of the most exciting wilderness rafting in Oregon. Rapids like Ledge and Halfmile are always highlights of the Middle section, along with Widowmaker, a challenging class V obstacle that guides may have to line or run without passengers depending on water levels. In addition to the exciting whitewater, there are great hiking opportunities to Native American petroglyphs, historic cabins, and beautiful, tight-walled canyons to explore. Canyon wrens sing their spring songs and Bighorn sheep wander the rocky canyon. Looking out over miles of open country from the rim really gives you a feeling for what one guest called the “awesome vastness” of this landscape.
A trip on the Middle Owyhee does not only provide a river adventure but likely a 4-wheel drive mission to access this remote canyon! Bring an adventurous spirit and be ready for a great time.
* When running the Middle Owyhee, one can plan for one thing, but get dealt a different hand. Water levels and road conditions can sometimes limit what exact section we run.