Since the guidebook warned us of the numerous rattlesnakes that hang out by the shore of the river and in the grasses we opted to sleep in and start once the sun was up and we could see. We started out following some cow trail along the banks of the river weaving our way along the shoreline. We had to cross back and forth as we got cliffed out along the way but mostly we were doing well.
The brush and willows were thick and the side hiking was tough but the first 4 miles went well and then things changed quickly. We soon found the brush and the steep slopes too much so we started walking up the river itself (yes we are heading upstream against the little but if current there was. The water was full of weeds and little fish darted away as we stepped further and further upstream.
With this being the hottest summer in Oregon’s history the river was extremely low and full algae blooms, weeds and frog eggs. As we tried to stay by the shore eventually we would have to cross the river and more than once it went over our chest and we floated away. After the first few times we came upon Whiskey Canyon. Flowing down was a hot creek from a hot spring so we decided to have a snack and warm back up by eating why we sat in the creek.
Finally we got back to the bushwhacking on the shores and trying to wade when possible. As the sun was getting higher we had one very deep wade over to the other bank where some big rocks were. Right as salty was about to climb up she jumped back in the water as a rattlesnake greeted her. We all slowly backed away and I climbed out at a different spot. When I got on top of the rock and looked below another snake laid coiled up resting in the sun. Great now we are all on edge even more about snakes.
Finally we reached a point where the canyon walls met the river and in the center were large boulders. We said screw it let’s swim. So with our packs on our backs the three of us entered the water and began swimming upstream. It was fun but so tiring. Our packs our buoyant because of our Katabatic quilts and other light gear, plus each pack is lined with a garbage compactor bag as a pack liner in theory keeping our gear dry and our packs bouyant. Well the packs did float us but are bags and clothes got a little wet. The other thing is even though we tried to do the breast stroke we had to do more of a hybrid dog paddle with our legs so we could feel for rocks and keep the pack at the correct angle, and a breast stroke with our arms to pull us along.
Finally after all the swimming we made it to antelope canyon and took a long lunch break. After lunch we decided to try to stay on shore to make better time. The bush whacking was a bear over loose screw and slick grass. But finally we reached 5 bar and our escape from the canyon. We sat at that spot for an hit reveling in what we had just done and planning our water strategy for the the rim walk going forward. With 10 liters each we climbed up the steep canyon walls to the rim and started our walk toward McDermitt across the most stunning rolling hills one has ever seen.
What an amazing place the Owyhee is, I hope it does become a national monument as is proposed. The canyon was so remote and the landscape was so dramatic we could of been in the SW of the US. With sweeping cliff walls, tons of birds and wildlife the West little Owyhee is truly one of the best kept secrets in the US. It’s so great to explore my state by foot and go somewhere few ever will.