The Owyhee Canyonlands is home to more than 150 miles of federally designated Wild & Scenic Rivers.
Photo by Chad Case

The Owyhee Canyonlands is an Oregon treasure. It’s one of the most remote, wild and untouched places in the entire country. Here, natural conditions prevail and much of the area looks today as it has for generations. The opportunities for solitude, primitive recreation, backcountry experiences, as well as a chance to unplug from the pressures and noise of our increasingly busy world, are unparalleled. 

Wild yet underprotected

Nearly half of Oregon is desert, but less than 1 percent of it is permanently protected.  The rugged Owyhee country spanning more than 2 million acres is one of the most wild, diverse, yet underprotected landscapes in the U.S.  The high-quality habitat in this area led the Bureau of Land Management to recognize over 1 million acres the Owyhee as candidate wilderness areas, while citizen inventories have identified hundreds of thousands of additional acres with wilderness character that merit permanent protection

Starry skies above 

Unbelievable stargazing is a hallmark of the Owyhee Canyonlands. Scientists have noted that it’s one of the areas least tainted by light pollution in the lower 48.
Photo by Jim Davis

In our modern age, the Owyhee Canyonlands is truly in the “middle of nowhere.” It is an area that is the farthest away from a major highway – and a McDonalds – in the U.S. Cell phone signals are nonexistent. In the coming decade, scientists say it may become one of the only places to view the night sky and the Milky Way in the lower 48 without light pollution.

Remote but under threat 

While remoteness has long protected the Owyhee, development pressure – including mining and oil and gas development – is now clawing at its edges. Before these forces take hold, let’s have the foresight to protect the Owyhee’s wild rivers, life and beauty for generations to come.