: By Mark W. Lisk

Wild Beauty in the Owyhee Canyonlands

Heidi Hagemeier, Guest Author
August 20, 2015 (Updated July 25, 2022)

In Southeastern Oregon, far from the state’s signature moss-dripped forests, lies one of the most remote stretches of the American West.

Only three paved roads cut across the Owyhee Canyonlands, a region of undulant sagebrush hills, rivers and canyons that is larger than Yellowstone National Park. Here, solitude abounds — meaning visitors experience a refreshing lack of cell phone service and some of the most light-pollution-free skies left in the Lower 48.

You’ll find much to explore in the untamed expanse. On the northern end, places like the Honeycombs, Chalk Basin and Leslie Gulch are filled with red-rock spires and marbled hills remnants of volcanic activity from when the Yellowstone hot spot burbled beneath Oregon 16 million years ago. In the south, rivers meander across the landscape, carving both gaping canyons on the Owyhee River and tight cracks in the earth along the Owyhee’s Middle Fork.

The result is a desert wonderland with a wealth of recreational offerings. Rafters deem the rapids of the Owyhee Wild and Scenic River a paddler’s paradise, and the canyon walls here are so immense that the New York Times even proclaimed this “Oregon’s Grand Canyon.” Hikers hit the winding trails to experience unmatched solitude and startling beauty. Plus, serene camping spots, bubbling hot springs, waterside petroglyphs and wildlife-watching opportunities abound, making the Owyhee Canyonlands an unmatched destination for all kinds of adventure seekers.