Urban youth experience the Owyhee

The nonprofit organization Soul River Inc. connects veterans and inner-city youth in the great outdoors. By linking veterans to youth as mentors through fishing and camping, all experience the healing power of nature. And together, they form a love of public lands.

Recently, Soul River brought a group to the Owyhee Canyonlands. Here, Citlalli Briseno and Kolby Cantue-Cliette share what their adventure in the Owyhee means to them.

Citlalli Briseño

Citalli experiences fly fishing in the Owyhee River.When I found out I would be going to the Owyhee Canyonlands, I didn’t know what to expect. I was told to bring clothes for the heat and for the cold, sunscreen, bug repellent and other things for a typical camping trip.

Once we arrived I understood why they told us to bring warm clothes: one instance it could be raining and the next it would be really hot. The scenery was very surprising to me as well. I was expecting dry desert land with sand and small patches of dried grass, but once we arrived it was very different. There were large patches of sagebrush, and other trees and plants. There seemed to be green almost everywhere except on the cliffs. The cliffs and the different colors of rock captured my eye quickly. I had never seen cliffs that were so tall with such a variety of colors.

During our trip we also encountered different wildlife such as mule deer, wild turkeys, pheasants and a snake. During the night while we were sleeping we could sometimes hear the animals walking just behind our tent. It was amazing being out there in such a desolate area -- there weren’t many cars, not much noise pollution, and we could enjoy everything in a peaceful manner. It was most peaceful when we were wading and fly fishing out on the river. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized the river was full of trout; they could be seen all around us.

I believe the most memorable part of the trip was the night sky. Out there I could see countless stars. They seemed much brighter than what I’m used to seeing in Portland. Spending some time in the Owyhee was a great and new experience for me. I was able to see the other side of Oregon that not many people associate it with. I was also exposed to a type of environment that I was never really exposed to. Overall, visiting the Owyhee Canyonlands was an unbelievable experience and I hope to go back soon.


Kolby Cantue-Cliette

Kolby enjoyed getting out of the city to the Owyhee..It’s nice to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the city life. Most of the time my life doesn’t really give me many opportunities to experience the marvelous outdoors. I am either burdened with programs, and sports, or buried alive in a puddle full of schoolwork and chores. The nonprofit organization Soul River Inc. has changed that: I was provided the good fortune to go on an Outdoor Education Deployment trip with volunteers, veterans, and other youth to the Owyhee Canyonlands.

The Owyhee is not only a splendid camping site but it’s also exceptionally superb for a learning environment. I was still able to learn and at the same time be able to breathe without the overflowing of crammed schedules. The crystal clear Owyhee River and Owyhee itself had provided many educational lessons and factors to learn from, I learned to do various things that I never thought I would have learned. One of the things I learned how to do was how to properly walk across a river. I also learned how to fly fish and ended up catching my first fish ever, which was a brown trout. I was educated on the lifecycle of a nymph that I didn’t even know existed at first and it completely captivated and engaged my mind.

The Owyhee also provided a location where the veterans and volunteers could create a teamwork drill for the youth that educated us on how to use a compass when navigating wild lands when you're not familiar with hiking in a natural environment -- it was a little problematic at first but as we propelled onward it became manageable and then a piece of cake, but I also learned that using a compass will never fully be untroublesome. We not only did the physical outdoor activities, but we also had some arts and crafts activities where we learned how to make and tie flies.

I wouldn’t have been able to have that much enjoyment or jubilance if it wasn’t for the people that are concerned and show so much commitment to the land. It’s because of people like them that my experience was fun and intriguing. For this reason, it’s so imperative to me to have a community of people that can help protect the Owyhee Canyonlands.