NewsIdaho Back Roads


Owyhee Canyonlands in Oregon deliver amazing scenery in rugged terrain

Posted at 11:48 AM, Oct 19, 2023

The Owyhee Canyonlands in Oregon spans more than two million acres. It is one of the last untouched landscapes in the country. However, that also means this wild place brings challenges that people need to be prepared for.

This land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, doesn't have many protections, so it is also important to pack out everything you bring in so others can also enjoy this rugged, untouched area in nature. There are plans in the works to protect some of these areas.

Leslie Gulch

The goal was to explore Leslie Gulch, which requires about a 20-mile drive on dirt roads after leaving Highway 95 southwest of Marsing. My first attempt did not go well as I got a flat tire.

A month later, with a new set of tires, I was able to reach my destination and I hiked up Juniper Gulch to a saddle. This was a really cool hike that reminded me a little bit of Southern Utah. The hike was 3.3 miles out and back with a one-thousand foot climb.

A look down Juniper Gulch from the saddle

Leslie Gulch features several other hiking options. We saw anglers fishing in Lake Owyhee and there is also a free campground with 12 spots near the reservoir. But, every spot was full on a holiday Monday when we were there. Fall is one of the most popular times to visit this area.

Precautions need to be taken before a trip to Leslie Gulch, as this area is prone to flash flooding. The hike through Juniper Gulch goes up through a wash and you definitely wouldn't want to be there during a rain storm. In fact, this area is named after Silver City Pioneer Hiram Leslie, who was struck by lightning and died in 1882. Checking the weather should be one of the first things you do before visiting the desert.

Leslie Gulch has an interesting history

The area has no cell service, and the only water I saw was at Lake Owyhee. The desert has goatheads, thorns, and sharp rocks that could cause problems for people and their pets.

Changing a flat tire out in the Owyhees

It's important to tell someone where you are going so they can notify authorities if you don't return. A spot device or a Garmin InReach can help you send an emergency message when you don't have cell service.

And you should also have the proper equipment heading out for an adventure. In my case, I always carry a med kit, overnight bag, sleeping bag, food, water, and extra clothing, so if something goes wrong, I can endure for a couple of days.

Thankfully, when I got the flat, I was able to change my tire and drive back to civilization.