Borden Beck is a longtime outings volunteer with the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club. Here, he shares a magical Owyhee experience and urges others to support the efforts of the Sierra Club — an Owyhee Coalition member — to protect Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands.
A Day in Owyhee Country
The day is decidedly HOT. There is no shade save for the occasional cloud. The view is expansive to say the least. The Owyhee Canyonlands offers up unexpected surprises as well for the intrepid explorer. Pick a point on the map and say “Let’s go here!” Walk cross country past lizards, sparrow nests, sego lilys, a rattlesnake surprise … and suddenly the uplands open up to a deeply carved canyon, seemingly impenetrable. Vertical walls lead down to turquoise green pools, tempting the imagination, yet a world away if you do not have the wings of a swallow. Photographing this landscape is hard to do justice to because the camera does not accommodate 180 degree views; you simply can’t fit it all in.
It is not hard to hike someplace in this remote landscape and feel that you may be the first person to have visited this spot in a decade; there are no footprints. The scenery is so stunning, so wild, that you wince at the notion that this landscape still has not received the recognition and the protection it deserves.
A little farther toward the end of the hike, a pause for a rest, and a short walk to a small rim and what looks on the map to be a tiny seasonal wet spot, just out of curiosity and some compelling message to explore further. Upon approaching the rim, the magic reveals itself as a panel of petroglyphs, certainly almost unknown to modern adventurers.
This kind of stuff is not in the guidebook which makes it all the more special. You feel as if you have stumbled upon some sacred site that has withstood time. A particular petroglyph portrays two people holding hands with energy waves emanating from their head, enclosed by the sun perhaps. It is easy to let the imagination run wild with speculation of meaning, both of this place and events.
Do I want more people to visit this spot. Of course not and it is remote enough to still withstand time. Some say that protecting this landscape will lead to it being over run by people, but leaving it unprotected will also over time lead to more dangerous development, mining, fracking, off road vehicles, wind farms, etc.
If you believe in protecting the Owyhee Canyonlands, cherish the remote opportunities to explore, value intact ecosystems for wildlife, then join me and the Sierra Club in advocating for permanent protection. Please sign this petition and check out the efforts to work with other environmental and recreational groups to advocate for the Owyhee. It is a special place indeed!