The Bureau of Land Management manages 52 000 acres of public lands in the Big Jacks Creek Wilderness. The area is part of the larger Owyhee Canyonlands, which is a vast and remote region in southwest Idaho, northern Nevada, and eastern Oregon, with canyons created by the Owyhee, Bruneau, and Jarbidge Rivers.
Big Jacks Creek flows north into the Bruneau River, and the Little Jacks Creek Wilderness is located on the northwest border of the wilderness area. The Big Jack Creek Wilderness area and the larger Owyhee Canyon Wilderness were created in 2009 to preserve the natural areas and geological formations and to provide wildlife habitat. Big Jacks Creek has about 35 miles of whitewater designated as a “wild” river and elevations in the Big Jacks Creek Wilderness range from 2808 to 5872 feet above sea level. The terrain is characterized by high desert plateaus with deep canyons up to 655 deep.
At the bottom of the steep canyon cliffs, the river systems provide remote wilderness areas with turbulent whitewater areas and peaceful serene pools. The steep grassy slopes of the canyons support local flora and fauna.
Recreational opportunities in the area include hiking, primitive camping, and fishing with the appropriate permits. No motor vehicles, including RVs, or bicycles are permitted in the wilderness area. Nearby state parks provide RV camping a short drive to the north. While in the area, check out local Idaho RV Rentals and set up overnight RV camping at Bruneau Dunes State Park and Three Island Crossing State Park.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Big Jacks Creek Wilderness is located about 25 miles southwest of Bruneau, Idaho. From Bruneau, head south on Highway 51 to milepost 45 and continue 0.1 miles south before heading right, to go west on unmarked Wickahoney Road for 5 miles to the wilderness kiosk, where a map provides directions to access roads and hiking trailheads in the Big Jacks Creek Wilderness Area.
Big Jacks Creek Wilderness is a remote wilderness area, and motorized vehicles and bicycles are not permitted in the protected lands. Access to the basin is provided by a network of dirt roads on the southern section, and the rest of the area can be explored on foot on hiking trails. Dirt roads in this area, and in the lower Owyhee Canyonlands are sporadically maintained and can have deep ruts and large rocks. When wet weather occurs, the surface of the roads becomes muddy and creates slippery conditions, and mud may build up in wheel wells. Only four-wheel-drive vehicles with high clearance can access the area, and vehicles visiting the region should carry full-size spare tires, tow straps, chains, jumper cables, and a five-gallon water jug.
Bruneau Dunes State Park is a 30-minute drive from Big Jacks Creek Wilderness area. The unique attractions at this park are the magnificent large sand dunes you can board down, and sandboarding equipment can be rented at the visitor center.
Visitors with RVs will find overnight RV camping at the park campground where 98 sites are available, 82 of which have electric and water hookups for RVs. An RV dump station, restrooms, and showers are available on-site; however, water is shut off when temperatures fall below freezing. The campground is treed, which provides shade and privacy, but temperatures can become very hot during the summer, and shade may not be adequate to maintain a comfortable temperature. Recreational facilities at the campground include a boat launch, swimming area, sandboarding hill, equestrian corrals and camping, two small lakes, including a fishing lake, hiking trails, and picnic shelter. There are also cabins for rent, an auditorium, WiFi, retail store, and visitor center located on-site.
Backpackers hiking in and around the Bureau of Land Management’s Big Jacks Creek Wilderness can enjoy primitive overnight camping in the region. Check with the Bureau of Land Management - Big Jacks Creek Wilderness as permits may be required for overnight stays on the public lands.
This is a remote wilderness area and you should always let someone know of your plans before venturing out for overnight camping in the area. The region and terrain may be more appropriate for experienced backcountry campers, as there are a variety of hazards in the area including high altitude, extreme weather conditions, wildlife, and rugged terrain with turbulent rivers.
Campers are encouraged to reuse previously used camping sites to limit the disturbance to the pristine wildlife.
Fishing in Big Jacks Creek is limited due to the characteristics of the river, 35 miles of which are considered a “wild” river with turbulent whitewater, and because the creek is home to redband trout, a protected species in the state of Idaho with limits on harvest.
Fishing is available, however, nearby on the Owyhee River below the dam. Anglers know this 14 mile stretch of the river for its excellent brown trout fishing. You can also fish in Idaho's Snake River at Three Island Crossing State Park and at the fishing lake in Bruneau State Park.
Whitewater rafting on Big Jacks Creek is impractical due to the difficulty of access to the waterway and the 35 miles of “wild” river characteristics along the creek. However, nearby river systems are popular locations for whitewater rafting. The Owyhee River is a renowned rafting river with interesting geological formations, hot springs, and petroglyphs to interest rafters along the ride. There are many Class V rapids in the area that will provide a challenge to experienced whitewater enthusiasts.
Big Jacks Creek Wilderness provides excellent opportunities for sightseeing, nature, and wildlife spotting. Wildflowers are abundant in the spring, and the rare Owyhee River forget-me-not is found only in this region and blooms in May and June. A wide variety of animal species thrive in the Big Jacks Creek Wilderness Area. Species include redband trout, quail, mountain lions, mule deer, pronghorns, bobcats, coyotes, bighorn sheep, sage grouse, bald eagles, hawks, falcons, and reptiles and amphibians.
Multiple hiking trails are available in the Big Jacks Creek Wilderness area for exploring the rugged terrain. Two hiking trails access the wilderness areas, the three-mile Big Jack Creek Trail, and Parker Trail, a 2.5-mile round trip. Most of the trails meander up and down the canyons, as the countryside has uneven rough volcanic terrain.
Four difficult trails in the region range in length from 38 to 88 miles with elevation changes from 4875 feet to 6112 feet. Hiking is best done in the fall and spring seasons, as the area becomes extremely hot in the summer. When hiking, ensure you have sturdy hiking boots to protect from vegetation and rocks and pack plenty of water as hiking in the area is strenuous.
Nearby Bruneau Dunes state park provides some unique terrain for recreational activities. The largest single-structure sand dune in North America, at 470 feet is situated here.
You can rent boards at the visitor center at the park and ride down the hill just like you would sled down a snow-covered hill. This activity is best enjoyed offseason, in the spring or fall, when the temperature of the sand is cooler. Makeshift boards, such as cardboard, do not work on the sandhills, so stick with the rental boards for a great ride!
Multiple private ski resorts to the north of the Big Jacks Creek Wilderness area provide winter sports enthusiasts with the opportunity to downhill ski and snowboard, cross country ski, tube, and snowshoe. Ski resorts provide hillside accommodations and equipment rentals.
The more developed beautiful mountainous areas just north of Big Jacks Creek Wilderness lack some of the remote wilderness features, but provide accessibility and developed winter alpine playgrounds.