Monday, June 8, 2009

Rafting The Owyhee River

One of the advantages of having a blog is you can write whatever you want. Mostly, this blog focuses on history, but today we take a little diversion.

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of spending five days rafting down the Owyhee River. The Owyhee is a wild river in South Eastern Oregon, flowing through some of the most spectacular and desolate country in the world. The name is a corruption of Hawaii, and the river was named for three native Hawaiians who were killed by Native Americans on the river long ago.

We passed through some of the most magnificent country I have ever seen. Its odd how desolate and beautiful always go together. The river is fed by snow melt, and is down to a trickle by mid-summer when the land reaches temperatures we associate with Death Valley. But, in May, it has rapids, ones dangerous and difficult enough to kick start the stoutest heart, including two awesome Class V rivers. The water is cold, a few degrees above freezing, and we had frost on the tents in the morning.

On the way back home, a few Owyhee Haiku got written;

Owyhee abides,

Flowing on since time began,

Raven overhead.

Blood among the sage,

Paint brush holds its glory close,

Seen by someone’s gods.

Not far from the river, on a rise, is the grave site of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the son borne to Sacagawea, during the Lewis and Clark expedition. He become a mountain man and, in 1866, passing though this wild country, he caught pneumonia and died. They buried in a place fit for a real mountain man.

I stayed there for quite a time, just listening to the wind and gazing out at the endless sky and high desert.

-Jim Longacre, Local Historian