The weather in Southwestern Idaho this spring has been frustrating at best. This past week we had 70+ degree temperatures one day, and snow the next, with all of my days off seeming to consist of the latter. Trying to plan a motorcycle ride has been difficult and disheartening with my plans constantly being foiled by bad weather. However, on Monday April 17, I awoke to find nearly clear skies and a very comfortable temperature of 58 degrees.
I decided to head out on the GS, my destination, Lake Owyhee State Park, just outside of Nyssa, Oregon. I left home around 11:00, and despite the pleasant temperature, I found the need to cinch down the collar of my jacket. I headed south out of Parma on County Highway 18 towards Roswell. Highway 18 terminates at the Oregon border only 7 short miles from Parma. Highway 18 turns into Roswell Road as you cross the state line. Shortly after entering Oregon you cross the Snake River just south of Adrian. After crossing the river I turned north on Highway 201 and entered Adrian. Adrian is a very small town with a population of only about 170. If you are not paying attention you will likely miss it as it only consists of a school and a few small businesses.
About three miles north of Adrian you will come across a sign indicating the turn off for Lake Owyhee. I turned where directed and found myself facing the Owyhee Mountains with a long straight stretch of roadway between me and them. As you leave the valley and begin to enter the canyons you will be presented with some fantastic views. There are several places to pull over along the roadway should you like to stop to take a picture.
About 5 miles west of Highway 201 you will cross the Owyhee River.
The name “Owyhee” derives from an early anglicization of the Hawaiian term “Hawaiʻi.” When James Cook encountered what he named the Sandwich Islands (now the Hawaiian Islands) in 1778, he found them inhabited by Native Hawaiians, whom the Anglo-Americans referred to as “Owyhees.” Many Owyhee sailed to the American Northwest coast and found employment along the Columbia River, where they joined trapping expeditions or worked at some of the fur trade posts.
In 1819, three Owyhee joined Donald Mackenzie’s Snake Expedition, which went out annually into the Snake country for the North West Company, a Montreal-based organization of Canadian fur traders. The three Hawaiians left the main party during the winter of 1819-20 to explore the then unknown terrain of what since has been called the Owyhee River and mountains. They disappeared and were presumed dead; no further information regarding their whereabouts has been found. In memory of these Native Hawaiians, British fur trappers started to call the region “Owyhee” and the name stuck.
After crossing the Owyhee River you turn south and begin to follow the river to the dam. The road to the dam is around 16 miles from when you first cross the river. The roadway is paved but littered with potholes and rough patch work from previous repairs. The scenic overlooks and constant switchbacks make up for the less than ideal surface.
Owyhee Lake Road closely follows the Owyhee River as you continue towards the dam. Approximately five miles north of the dam, the roadway cuts through a huge rock face in the side of the mountain. A small (approximately 100 feet) tunnel is carved into the rock.
As I arrived at the dam I immediately noticed how windy it was; no longer being protected by the mountains. There were several vehicles parked at the top of the dam.
Owyhee Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam on the Owyhee River in Eastern Oregon near Adrian, Oregon, United States. Completed in 1932 during the Great Depression, the dam generates electricity and provides irrigation water for several irrigation districts in Oregon and neighboring Idaho. At the time of completion, it was the tallest dam of its type in the world (it was surpassed about two years later). The dam is part of the Owyhee Dam Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Owyhee is 833 feet (254 m) long at the crest, which is 30 feet wide. The base of the dam is 265 feet wide, with a height of 417 feet. The crest elevation sits at 2,675 feet above sea level and has a hydraulic height of 325 feet.
I decided to continue on past the dam with the intent of returning later when it was less crowded. The road south of the dam narrows slightly and the tight switchbacks increase, in essence it’s a motorcyclist’s dream. A common problem with some of these remote, narrow, paved roads is the tendency for larger vehicles to throw gravel all over the roadway particularly on the curves where vehicles pulling trailers swing wide. This was not the case on Owyhee Lake Road. Although I did come across a few small gravel patches, for the most part the roadway was entirely void of any hazards.
As you continue traveling south you will encounter three maintained campgrounds. The three campgrounds comprise the Lake Owyhee State Park. The campgrounds cost 22 dollars per day for electric hook ups and 17 dollars per day for a tent site. A little steep in my opinion but on par for Oregon campground fees. All of the campgrounds have a bathroom. There is also a boat ramp at each campground.
There is a very small convenience store located at the most southern campground. The store was closed during my visit.
The paved road ends here, and due to the recent rain and snow I decided this would be a good turn around point for me as well. I turned the bike around and began heading back out the way I had came. I enjoyed the many curves in the road on the way out just as much as I had on the way in.
As I neared the dam I noticed there was no longer anyone stopped there. I decided this would be a good opportunity to stop and maybe take some photos or video. Prior to embarking on this trip, I had charged up my Phantom 4 drone to bring along anticipating getting some awesome drone footage.
I pulled over next to the dam’s spillway; Owyhee has a unique spillway located part way up the dam that utilizes a 60-foot in diameter tunnel to send excess water to the river below during Spring run-off. This spillway is known as a glory hole.
I pulled out the Phantom and began the startup process, powering on the iPad, the drone, and the controller. I noted before the drone took off the wind seemed to be picking up. I had never tried to fly the drone in the wind before…
The drone lifted off and hovered approximately three feet off of the ground. So far, so good. I checked the inputs on the controller to ensure the drone was operating properly and the gimbal was functioning. Everything seemed to be working just fine. I pushed the joystick up to gain some elevation. As soon as the drone cleared the dam barrier walls it was pushed mercilessly by the wind over the top of the dam. A mistake now would send my drone falling over 400 feet to its watery death in the river below. I steered the drone back over the dam to my location but the strong winds were blowing my drone all over the place. It was as if the drone had a mind of its own. A car drove by me just as I began sprinting down the road to try and save my drone. I can only imagine the look of terror on my face as I chased after the drone. If I had to guess, it would look something similar to the last time I had crashed a drone.
I quickly reached the edge of the dam and hopped up onto railing, standing at the second railing from the top, I was able to extend one hand and use the other hand to steer the drone back towards me. After a few harrowing seconds, which seemed like an eternity, I had the drone safely back with me.
I decided flying the drone in high winds was probably not the best idea.
I packed up my drone and decided to head home. The heat from the sun had began to intensify, but I was still quite comfortable in my jacket. I thumbed through my phone and selected some music to listen to on the way home.
I stopped several times on the way back along the river to take a few photos.
Suddenly, the music from my phone stopped. Initially I assumed I was back in cell service, as I hit the home button on my phone I was greeted with a red exclamation point stating my phone was too hot and needed to cool down before it would be usable again. I guess spring really is here.
Owyhee Dam. (2017, March 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:13, April 17, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Owyhee_Dam&oldid=771672085
Owyhee County, Idaho. (2017, February 11). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:14, April 17, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Owyhee_County,_Idaho&oldid=764805396