Pro Tip: Planning a Lower Owyhee Trip
Looking to get on the illusive Owyhee River? Cross your fingers for a good snowpack, some spring rains, and clear sunny skies for the perfect spring river trip!
This gem of Oregon, and multi-day trip lovers, is a self issue permit river. No need to having the stars and planets alight to win the lottery on this one. You can fill out a permit at the Rome boat ramp or download one here and drop it off at the permit box before you trip.
This might be one of the easiest middle of nowhere put-in locations. The Rome boat ramp is located right off of Highway 95. There is a decent boat ramp with ample room for vehicles, trailers, and rafts.
Many people drive to Rome the evening before their trip launches and camp. There are a handful of first come first sever campsites and picnic tables and lots of flat space for sleeping.
There are a couple of options on the Owyhee for take-out. Birch Creek and Leslie Gulch are the most popular.
Taking out at Birch Creek keeps you from going across the top part of Lake Owyhee but can be a strenuous take-out drive. The road is mostly single lane, includes a few creek crossings, and one really steep climb out of the canyon. Four-wheel drive and some decent clearance is recommended. I would avoid piling all your raft gear and friends in your Subaru.
Floating across the reservoir to Leslie Gulch can be a dream come true or a nightmare. It all depends on the wind and if you have a motor or not. There tends to be some current going down to the popular camp and hot springs at Black Rock but it can be slow going. However, the drive out of Leslie Gulch is much friendly than Birch Creek. It is still a gravel road, but it is much friendly and straightforward of a drive.
The Owyhee is filled with excellent camps. There is a free river map you can download here. If you haven't heard there are indeed hot springs at the camps Ryegrass and Greeley. Both are big sites so be ready to share and have visitors stopping in for a quick soak.
There are also a ton of great hiking options from camps so bring some shoes and allow a bit of time for some wandering. Popular hikes include, Pruitt's Castle, Lambert Dome, and Devil's Tower.
The Owyhee flow is inconsistent and located pretty far out there so renting gear can be hard. There are a few places in Portland, Bend, and Boise that rent gear.
The rapids are straight forward for the most part on the Owyhee. There is tons of fun class II and III. The river gets a bit more difficult as the water drops below 1000 CFS, as it becomes very technical. Keep eye out for Bulls Eye, Whistling Bird, Montgomery, and Nuisance. There are many other rapids on this stretch but those are some of the highlights.
Shuttle companies and phone numbers come and go. Especially when there is little water and the Owyhee doesn't have much flow. I suggest checking out forums such as Mountain Buzz or calling the Vale BLM for the latest information. The one consistent part of shuttle is the roads are rough, weather down there can cause slides, and its best to be as prepared as possible.
Food packing is always a group preference. Burns Oregon is on the way for many boaters and has a great Safeway if you need to do a full food buy or grab a few things. Boise is also on the way for many boaters and has lots of options.
Trash and recycling
Be prepared to take all of your trash and recycling home with you. There is no trash or recycling at Rome or Birch Creek. If you choose to float down to Leslie Gulch I wouldn't rely on enough dumpsters for your trash. Burns and Boise area have places that can take care of your waste.
- There is a little bit of cell phone reception at Rome but no where else
- On years with good flows the river gets really busy
- The Owyhee is really remote, be careful
Happy trip planning!