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Lake Owyhee


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We just got back from a fun trip with WakeGirl's family to Lake Owyhee (pronounced Oh-WAH-hee, similar to Hawaii) in eastern Oregon near the Idaho border. It's a pretty good haul from Bend (280 miles) and the last 30 or so can leave some fingernail marks in the dash and steering wheel.

WakeGirl said she and Slider laughed when they saw the sign announcing "narrow and windy road next 5 miles". After all, hadn't we just been on a narrow and windy road for the last 17 miles? Apparently not! At that point the road climbs several hundred feet up the canyon wall from the valley floor to Lake Owyhee Dam.

Guard rails? We don't need no stinkin' guard rails!

Shoulder? Why would you want that? Crazy.gif

Hairpin turns? Those we got! By the dozen! And disregard that 100+ foot fall... Cry.gif

Actually the road really wasn't that narrow...if it were a one way road.

Once you pass the dam you see a gorgeous lake stretching out in front of you (it's more than 50 miles long). Of course you can't really look at it because it takes all your concentration to go the remaining 4 miles to the campground as you cling to the side of the cliff for dear life. Fortunately the canyon curves in a crescent that allows you to see a long way ahead and watch for oncoming traffic. It's a slow (crawling) process to get past the oncoming vehicle and then you're back to driving for a while.

But, at the end of the road you have a pretty nice campground with amazing amenities for being in such a remote location. There's a nice little store with all the necessities, a cafe, and fuel service at the top of the ramp ($3.65 a gallon for mid-grade!). The camp sites are reasonable (we stayed at Indian Creek -- McCormack looked nicer with more grass) and there are only 80 or so in the park.

WakeGirl's camp:

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View from our campsites with our boats at rest:

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We had a good time and found lots of good water to play in. The area is very warm and can be windy. When it's not, the flat water seems to stretch forever and the limited amount of camping means very little competition for the water. Interestingly, we saw more water skiers here than we typically see in several visits to our local lake. There were a lot of people from Idaho since it's pretty close to the border and the drive from Boise is probably no more than 2.5 hours.

The scale of the scenery is staggering to me. Cliff walls reaching 300 to 400 feet above the water. Rock spires rising 150 feet out of the water. Canyons giving way to buttes and rolling hills as you head up-lake...really amazing stuff. Here are a few scaled-down images:

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All in all, we had a great adventure, saw some remarkable scenery, played hard, and rolled home safe and sound. I recommend the lake but you have to be willing to take on those last 5 miles... Biggrin.gif

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Yup, was just in that area last week. But I didn't make it the remaining 30 miles to the lake. My wife's family grew up in Ontario and Nyssa, about 40 ish miles from there. Wish I had my boat last weekend while we were there though. It was easily over 90.

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In the previous photos, the faint white line (above the large white area) is the full pool mark. The lake was about 30' down when we were there. Here are a few more photos from the fun...

Our classic 2000 SLXi:

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WakeGirl's (and Slider's) VLX:

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Elinor doing a little surfin':

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RJ and Elinor nurfin':

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WakeGirl setting up another surf session:

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Yup, was just in that area last week. But I didn't make it the remaining 30 miles to the lake. My wife's family grew up in Ontario and Nyssa, about 40 ish miles from there. Wish I had my boat last weekend while we were there though. It was easily over 90.

It was 101 on Thursday and cooled down to the mid to upper 90s Friday through Sunday. The campground has 50 Amp service to each site (McCormack has 30A) and the A/C we installed on the camper last year sure came in handy. Come to think of it, enabling a trip to Owyhee was one of the primary reasons we put in the A/C... :)

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That looks really fun. I guess I didn't realize (but probably should have), that Oregon had that type of terrain. I always pictured Oregon as being totally heavily forested and mountainous, not a desertish type landscape. Pretty cool. Looks like you guys had some nice glass too!

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Looks great. I've never spent much time in that part of the state. My wife would not approve of the road you described. She gets nervous when we drive up to Mt. Hood. Surprised.gif

Looks like a great place to go.

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That looks really fun. I guess I didn't realize (but probably should have), that Oregon had that type of terrain. I always pictured Oregon as being totally heavily forested and mountainous, not a desertish type landscape. Pretty cool. Looks like you guys had some nice glass too!

Most people don't, in fact a lot of people that live in the terrain that you speak of on the western side of the Cascades don't realize it. But there's more of Oregon that looks this way than the scenery that you see on post cards & such of lush terrain of forests & mountains. This lake reminded me of the pictures that I've seen of Lake Powell, only on a smaller scale & it would be perfect if you could rent houseboats. As it is much of the lake is unusable to us since there's 50 miles of lake & the only campgrounds/services are at the very start of it where you come in (the road does not continue up the lake unfortunately). The drive in was possibly more spectacular than the lake itself, a narrow twisty road that really got bad the last 5 miles. You wouldn't want a total truck/trailer combo much longer than what our 2 groups had, that's for sure. :lol:

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That looks really fun. I guess I didn't realize (but probably should have), that Oregon had that type of terrain. I always pictured Oregon as being totally heavily forested and mountainous, not a desertish type landscape. Pretty cool. Looks like you guys had some nice glass too!

Most people don't, in fact a lot of people that live in the terrain that you speak of on the western side of the Cascades don't realize it. But there's more of Oregon that looks this way than the scenery that you see on post cards & such of lush terrain of forests & mountains. This lake reminded me of the pictures that I've seen of Lake Powell, only on a smaller scale & it would be perfect if you could rent houseboats. As it is much of the lake is unusable to us since there's 50 miles of lake & the only campgrounds/services are at the very start of it where you come in (the road does not continue up the lake unfortunately). The drive in was possibly more spectacular than the lake itself, a narrow twisty road that really got bad the last 5 miles. You wouldn't want a total truck/trailer combo much longer than what our 2 groups had, that's for sure. :lol:

That's the first thought that popped into my head when I saw it. I guess the same can be said of the Seattle/Spokane differences. The two climates couldn't be any more different. Of course, I would probably have a heart attack driving on those roads with a boat behind me. I'm nervous enough on the little road that leads to our ramp...and the only danger there is taking out a mailbox Biggrin.gif

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That looks really fun. I guess I didn't realize (but probably should have), that Oregon had that type of terrain. I always pictured Oregon as being totally heavily forested and mountainous, not a desertish type landscape. Pretty cool. Looks like you guys had some nice glass too!

Most people don't, in fact a lot of people that live in the terrain that you speak of on the western side of the Cascades don't realize it. But there's more of Oregon that looks this way than the scenery that you see on post cards & such of lush terrain of forests & mountains. This lake reminded me of the pictures that I've seen of Lake Powell, only on a smaller scale & it would be perfect if you could rent houseboats. As it is much of the lake is unusable to us since there's 50 miles of lake & the only campgrounds/services are at the very start of it where you come in (the road does not continue up the lake unfortunately). The drive in was possibly more spectacular than the lake itself, a narrow twisty road that really got bad the last 5 miles. You wouldn't want a total truck/trailer combo much longer than what our 2 groups had, that's for sure. :lol:

That's the first thought that popped into my head when I saw it. I guess the same can be said of the Seattle/Spokane differences. The two climates couldn't be any more different. Of course, I would probably have a heart attack driving on those roads with a boat behind me. I'm nervous enough on the little road that leads to our ramp...and the only danger there is taking out a mailbox Biggrin.gif

Exactly. The 2 states are very similar in that respect, western regions are the same as are the eastern regions, with the Cascade range being the dividing line (it could also be said that it divides the 2 states in terms of politics as well, but that's another discussion :lol:). It was a beautiful place for sure, but it's going to be tough to get me to go back when Shasta is that much closer for us. I do love Shasta. Biggrin.gif

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Whimps!!! ROFL.gifROFL.gif

We love that lake, and are heading up tomorrow just for the day. 1 1/2 hours from my place.

The last 5 miles are a bit narrow and twisty, but I grew up driving tighter locations than that. My wife, however, does not like that part. Last time she got out and walked the last half mile to the dam, then we dumped the boat in at the ramp at the dam, she drives the boat over to the campground to meet us. She does not like steep roads.

The terrrain is a miniature Lake Powell, and you can usually find good water somewhere.

BTW - the narrow, twisty, 20 miles that lead up to the last 5 miles is what we that grew up in eastern Idaho call interstates.

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Malibudude

I sure wish we could have joined ya...Been awhile since I've been to that part of the state. So maybe skip Powell and go here instead...lol

Yes the terrain in the NW is quite different from west to east as is the politics, except Eugene and Ashland they are simply some odd duck cities.

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Whimps!!! ROFL.gifROFL.gif

We love that lake, and are heading up tomorrow just for the day. 1 1/2 hours from my place.

The last 5 miles are a bit narrow and twisty, but I grew up driving tighter locations than that. My wife, however, does not like that part. Last time she got out and walked the last half mile to the dam, then we dumped the boat in at the ramp at the dam, she drives the boat over to the campground to meet us. She does not like steep roads.

The terrrain is a miniature Lake Powell, and you can usually find good water somewhere.

BTW - the narrow, twisty, 20 miles that lead up to the last 5 miles is what we that grew up in eastern Idaho call interstates.

Why the heck didn't we meet you over there then? I had no idea you were so close. Next time!

One other cool thing, we finally convinced my youngest son (who is autistic) to spend some time behind the boat & he was totally hooked. He loved it & spent a lot of time "body boarding" as we called it on the surfboard. He was even asking to go, that's a first!! He went at first with his dad, then with his brother & Elinor, and he was so proud of himself. Here are a few pics, check out the smile: Yahoo.gifYahoo.gif

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Why the heck didn't we meet you over there then? I had no idea you were so close. Next time!

A couple reasons, I'm sure. But I was skiing on Folsom Lake in Nor Cal on Sat, didn't get home until about midnight Sunday. We plan on going up tomorrow, and in a couple weeks spending a couple days there. I'm trying to build up to Lake Powell at the end of the month.

I'd love to meet up with you all next time you hit the lake.

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Malibudude
Why the heck didn't we meet you over there then? I had no idea you were so close. Next time!

A couple reasons, I'm sure. But I was skiing on Folsom Lake in Nor Cal on Sat, didn't get home until about midnight Sunday. We plan on going up tomorrow, and in a couple weeks spending a couple days there. I'm trying to build up to Lake Powell at the end of the month.

I'd love to meet up with you all next time you hit the lake.

Drop me a line next time you come down here, I'll try to get you out behind the classic. :)

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Why the heck didn't we meet you over there then? I had no idea you were so close. Next time!

A couple reasons, I'm sure. But I was skiing on Folsom Lake in Nor Cal on Sat, didn't get home until about midnight Sunday. We plan on going up tomorrow, and in a couple weeks spending a couple days there. I'm trying to build up to Lake Powell at the end of the month.

I'd love to meet up with you all next time you hit the lake.

Drop me a line next time you come down here, I'll try to get you out behind the classic. :)

Whirlwind tour - in the past 2 weeks, I've been from Boise to Ohio, to Washington DC, back to Boise, to El Dorado Hills, to Vallejo, back to El Dorado Hills, then home to Boise again. I was even able to get some work done in the mean-time. But my boat gathered dust.

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The place looks beautiful. Is there camping you could do by boat? Do you have to make reservations to camp at the various sites? Since the lake is so long and camp grounds are few is everyone bottlenecked up in the lower part of the reservoir. I am heading to shasta in a couple of weeks but maybe we should reconsider. Thanks for any info.

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The place looks beautiful. Is there camping you could do by boat? Do you have to make reservations to camp at the various sites? Since the lake is so long and camp grounds are few is everyone bottlenecked up in the lower part of the reservoir. I am heading to shasta in a couple of weeks but maybe we should reconsider. Thanks for any info.

Camping is first come first serve, & as far as I know the only 2 campgrounds are on that one end. So yes, I think that people do tend to bottle neck up on that end, but it's not a terribly busy lake by our standards so it might be worth considering. I'm not sure on the boat-in camping. There are a lot of beaches that people set up day camps on & we saw what appeared to be some fishermen that were offloading for camping on one such beach. So I suppose it's doable. The campground does rent patio boats, so that may be another way to go to haul your gear a long way. It would be a long drive for you though, probably 9-10 hours.

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I sure wish we could have joined ya...Been awhile since I've been to that part of the state. So maybe skip Powell and go here instead...lol

Yes the terrain in the NW is quite different from west to east as is the politics, except Eugene and Ashland they are simply some odd duck cities.

I have no idea what you are talking about Whistling.gif

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The place looks beautiful. Is there camping you could do by boat? Do you have to make reservations to camp at the various sites? Since the lake is so long and camp grounds are few is everyone bottlenecked up in the lower part of the reservoir. I am heading to shasta in a couple of weeks but maybe we should reconsider. Thanks for any info.

You can do camping by boat. I have a map from a fisherman friend of mine with several good beaches for camping down the lake (about 7+ miles down from the campground WG/Carveit up stayed at. PM me if you want it. Am sure that the local campgrounds / store staff could point those out on a map as well.

We were there on Memorial Day weekend for the first time; well worth it - great water, and the campgrounds were just fine, water is great.

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I grew up on Lake Owyhee...been going to that lake for 35 years. Rockon.gif

Was at Lake Owyhee last Wed-Fri.. just missed you guys! A crew of 4 of us took a trip from Spokane, hit the Columbia, Lake Billy Chinook, Prineville Res. and ended at Owyhee for 3 days before returning to Spokane. Friday sucked as it was blownout and whitecapped.

Hope you guys had fun.

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What a great place once you get there. We have not been there in a while and this just sparked the flame Yahoo.gif Road trip! Thumbup.gif

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I grew up on Lake Owyhee...been going to that lake for 35 years. Rockon.gif

Was at Lake Owyhee last Wed-Fri.. just missed you guys! A crew of 4 of us took a trip from Spokane, hit the Columbia, Lake Billy Chinook, Prineville Res. and ended at Owyhee for 3 days before returning to Spokane. Friday sucked as it was blownout and whitecapped.

Hope you guys had fun.

Wow, now that is a great road trip!!

What are your thoughts on the spots you hit?

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was there yesterday.

Water temp = 75

Air temp = 101

Miles to lake = 75 (no straight section longer than 1 mile)

No campgrounds up river, but there are a few houses/cabins up the lake in 2 places that I know of. No roads in except for a 4x4 path. My understanding is that these are privately owned, but some may be available for rent, no idea how to find out.

The wind was off and on yesterday, but we had decent water. Even on a hot 4th of July, it wasn't crowded once you got up the lake a few miles. We boarded and surfed our way up river and found a place we played around in the rest of the day.

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