The Ohwyees


Oregon is much more than Portland’s political center. Within about half an hour, I can be in Oregon wine country, and in about two hours I can be in the Columbia River Gorge, well on my way to Eastern Oregon, the Big Nowhere. The Ohwyee River is about 280 miles long.

The Ohwyees and the Ohwyee River, think Hawaii, is still an isolated part of Nevada. Oregon, and Idaho.

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.” Noted for their hardy physique and maritime skills, numerous Native Hawaiians were hired as crew members aboard European and American vessels. 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.

The video in this post is a very basic travel video about a trip in the Ohwyees. Family and friends that at least chose something off the beaten track rather than Disneyland.


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  1. Tex929rr Coolidge

    In 78-79 I was a young airman stationed at Wilder, Idaho at a small radar station.  The Air Force had a practice bombing range that ran along the Owyhee River.  Most of the targets were around the dam at the north end of the lake.  B52’s (and also some F111’s and FB111’s) would make low level practice runs and our equipment would evaluate the simulated bomb runs.  We would also give them electronic warfare training by simulating  the current Soviet AAA and SAM radars.  I drove out to the dam a couple of times to watch the planes and climb the hills around the damn.  It’s very impressive, especially when the water is high and the dam is draining.

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  2. Tex929rr Coolidge

    I found a picture of the radar site. The river is the Snake and the other side is Oregon. 

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  3. Ole Summers Member
    Ole Summers

          ” In a land the Spanish called the Northern Mystery

            where rivers run and disappear and the Mustang still runs free

            By the Devil’s Wash and the coyote hole in the Wild Owyhee Range”

    Tom Russell … Ballad of Claude Dallas

    Several years ago I made a 24 hour drive to get to a friend’s house outside of Grandview, ID. It was the spring after a fire had scalped the area around War Eagle Mountain. We took two horses and spent two days riding back into the edge of the Owyhee Range as spring and a bit of moisture was bringing out the first replacements for what had been lost to fire. It is a great piece of country and this brings back a very good few days and a good friend long lost.

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  4. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'

    Thanks Doug!  Now I wanna go.

    But – why is the dude pooping on Spam?  Considering the Ohywee’s name’s origins, Spam is a natural, nay, nay I say, Spam is a requirement of ingestion on a trip like this.

    Nay, I say, to the naysayers of Spam ™.

    • #4
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