If you’re looking for a remote getaway to enjoy a rugged serene landscape, then look no further. Lake Owyhee is a truly remote experience in the middle of over a thousand acres of majestic mountain and desert landscape.
The Park is steeped in history as well. The famed Hudson's Bay Company even led an expedition to the site in 1819 and the Park has been named in honor of the Hawaiian laborers (Owyhee being a variation of Hawaii at the time) who were fatally attacked by Snake Indians during their service to the company.
Since it's such a remote area, preparation is important. Before planning your trip you should take every precaution you can in terms of supplies and emergency medical equipment. The reason for being so well prepared is that the nearest emergency services are about 33 miles away, in Nyssa, and the closest hospital is located about an hour away from the park. There is also no cell coverage in the area and pay phones don’t exist in this part of the country. Having no permanent staff (all workers are voluntary) and being such a remote recreational experience, you should prepare accordingly.
However, despite its remote location, and the risks that come with it, attendance at the Park is in the thousands annually. The desert canyon and rugged mountains are a truly majestic site and the 53-mile long Owyhee reservoir offers anglers a chance to fish in this remote and rugged region of Oregon.
If coming from Eugene, Oregon, take Highway 20 east for 285 miles to Glenn St South in Vale, after which take Lytle Boulevard to Owyhee Lake Road.
From Portland, follow I-84 East to Oregon State Highway 201. Take Exit 374 and continue on Oregon State Highway 21 to Owyhee Lake Road.
The drive to Lake Owyhee Reservoir may be very scenic and picturesque, but it is strongly advised that you drive with the utmost caution. The road is narrow and steep so drive slowly and diligently throughout.
Lake Owyhee State Park has two campgrounds that can accommodate RVs. A reservation system is in place currently, but starting October 1st, the Park will be operating on a first come first served basis. The park is open all-year round but the campgrounds are closed during the winter. Potable water is only available during the months of April to October.
McCormack Campground has 29 sites with electric and water hook up. Showers, restroom facilities and a RV dump station are also available on the campground. The campground office will sell firewood and ice if you need it as well. McCormack has two sites that are ADA accessible. Pets are allowed in the campground and their is also a playground situated close by.
This campground has 22 sites with electrical and water hook up. In addition to restrooms and shower facilities on site, a Boat ramp is also located on the campground. Marine fuel, firewood and ice are available for sale from the campground’s front office. The campground has two sites and one cabin accessible to campers with disabilities.
Coordinates: 43°36'36.4"N 117°15'24.5"W
The Park is home to the Owyhee Reservoir which is a 53-mile-long lake. The lake is formed inside a narrow canyon filled with colorful volcanic rock formations and is a treasure trove for anglers looking for a catch of largemouth bass, black crappie, catfish and the occasional rainbow trout. Boat ramps are located on the Indian Creek campground and the Gordon Gulch Day-use Area
Designated areas of the lake have been reserved for swimming. There is no lifeguard on duty, as the entire staff is voluntary, and caution should be taken when diving into the pleasant lake waters. Only swim in areas that are designated and allow the activity and never leave children unattended. All rules should be followed at all times for everyone’s safety.
Considering the rather unique landscape of the area, some of it can only be viewed on a boat. Hence, it is no surprise that the Owyhee Reservoir is a popular destination for boating enthusiasts. In fact, many boaters return every year contributing to that attendance of thousands annually. You can also Kayak or Canoe on the lake and enjoy the picturesque scenery from the peace and quiet of your very own little floating island. The over fifty miles of lake waters offer plenty of space to have some alone time floating on the calm lake waters.
Considering the rough terrain, the wildlife in the area is just as tough and resilient. Wildlife enthusiast will be able to see Bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, golden eagles, coyotes, mule deer, wild horses and mountain lions in these parts. Considering the nature of some of these animals, caution should be taken, and it would be prudent to speak to the front office before you plan any wildlife expeditions.
The Park also provides good opportunities for hiking enthusiasts to stretch their legs. The landscape, while remote and rugged, is truly picturesque and offers a serenity rarely found in other parts of the world. The historical significance of the area also allows for a little bit of history-hopping as many significant events have occurred in the area. Due to the abundance of wildlife, caution should be taken, and you should speak to the front office before you plan your hike for the day.
For those of a slightly more extreme inclination, the mountain biking opportunities along the rugged mountains is a must try experience. There are no commercial tours/experiences, so only experienced mountain bikers should attempt this feat. You will need to bring all your equipment and safety gear as the Park does not have the facilities or staff to provide any of these.