The Owyhee River’s reputation as a big-time whitewater river is well deserved, but there is a quieter side to these beautiful canyons. In between rapids there are long calm pools allowing time to take in the 1000 ft sheer wall canyons of the Owyhee. We often see bighorn sheep as we drift along, or surprise them when we are exploring the tight-walled side canyons. The option to stop at historic trapping and homestead cabins along the way allow us to marvel at the determination of those who carved out a living in this rugged country. A hike to the rim to look down into the canyon or spot antelope far off in the sagebrush can be a highlight of the trip. Looking out over miles of open country really gives you a feeling for what one guest called the “awesome vastness” of this country. There are more than 250 miles of navigable river in the Owyhee Canyonlands! These miles combine the South Fork, East Fork, Main, and Lower Owyhee. An adventure into the Owyhee does not only provide an adventure on the river but likely a 4-wheel drive mission to access many of these remote places!
We break down the Owyhee into three sections: Upper Owyhee, Middle Owyhee, and Lower Owyhee.
Upper Owyhee (East Fork)
The Upper East Fork includes Duck Valley Indian Reservation to Three Forks river access. The South Fork of the Owyhee is also included in the Upper Section. The Upper Owyhee is the most technically challenging section of the Owyhee and there are often a few portages and lining projects along the way. This section gets very little use and is an excellent place to see wildlife. It is a rare sight to see anyone else on the East Fork. This section is for someone with a great spirit for adventure and a love for remote places. Definitely a step off the beaten path, but those who seek it out are rewarded in a special way.
Keeping Our Options Open: If the water is too low to put in at Duck Valley, Garat Crossing provides a second access point. Garat is 24-miles below Duck Valley and is a 4-wheel drive mission to get in to the river. Crutcher Crossing is another access point for the East Fork, another 4-wheel drive mission. If for weather or water reasons the East Fork is not an option, the South Fork is a great trip as well. Anyone that plans an Upper Owyhee trip with us or anyone else should be ready for plan B, but as you can see there are many options for a great river trip in this section.
* In navigating the Upper Owyhee you can plan for one thing, but you may get dealt a different hand every time. Water levels and road conditions can sometimes limit which section we run. Get ready for an adventure! To lay eyes on this relatively unexplored and unknown desert canyon is worth the effort!