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Ride Destination: Eastern Oregon Desert

By Ed Udlinek.
Originally Published in the IAMC Newsletter, June 2011

A large portion of my life has been spent in Eastern Oregon, so I have covered a lot of ground there and still have a lot left to explore. I’ll cover some of my favorites here to give you an idea of what can be found if you get off the beaten path.

The majority of Southeastern Oregon is BLM ground, so you can ride for hundreds of miles off-road, unhindered by No Trespassing signs. I usually hit the dirt west of Nyssa and ride for hours. A couple of years ago, a few of us rode from Nyssa to Juntura on dirt, and we camped at Chukar Park. It’s a nice little BLM campground that sees very little use.

Setting up camp at Chukar Park BLM Campground
near Juntura, Oregon. Tom Tolle (seated left), Ryan
Cantrell (seated middle facing the camera), Jim
Eldridge and Heath Hiatt (standing right in
background), and Khris Reed (squatting foreground
with back to the camera).

Northeast of the campground you can see wagon ruts carved into solid rock by wagons using the Ontario to Burns freight road circa 1884‐1913.

Wagon track ruts carved into the rocks along the
Ontario to Burns freight road.
Close up of the wagon ruts.

Don’t forget to stop at the Oasis Café in Juntura for some great food and homemade fudge.

Heath Hiatt and Jimmy Eldridge at the Oasis Café in Juntura.

Crowley Road really gets you out in the middle of nowhere. Head west out of Vale to Harper Junction and turn south onto Crowley Road. It is 90 miles of dirt between HWY 20 and HWY 78. Some of the things you’ll see:

Mail boxes seen along the Crowley Road.
Robber’s Roost seen along the Crowley Road.

On Highway 95 headed south into Oregon, a few miles before Jordan Valley, you will come to Jordan Craters Road that heads west. Along this road you can check out some petroglyphs.

Petroglyphs that can be seen along Jordan Craters Road just north of Jordan Valley, Oregon.

Jordan Craters Road turns into Blowout Reservoir Road, and the right (north) fork of this road is Birch Creek Road. Birch Creek Ranch, which is on the Owyhee River, is at the end of this road.

Birch Creek Ranch on the Owyhee River.

Hole In the Ground Ranch is just upriver from Birch Creek.

Hole in the Ground Ranch is found upriver from the Birch Creek Ranch.

Hattie Harrell’s “Island Ranch” is downriver from Birch Creek.

Hattie Harrell’s stone ranch house.

About 30 miles South of Jordan Valley is Three Forks on the Owyhee River, located about 6 miles west of the Idaho‐Oregon border. From Jordan Valley you can get to Three Forks of the Owyhee either by following Juniper Mountain Road south to Fenwick Ranch Road or by taking Three Forks Road that heads south off of Highway 95 about 15 miles southwest of Jordan Valley.

Three Forks on the Owyhee River.

Don’t miss seeing the warm springs at Three Forks.

Warm springs at Three Forks on the Owyhee.

You will also have a spectacular view of the Owyhee River Canyon from the overlook.

Overlook into the Owyhee River Canyon.

There is a lot to see in Southeastern Oregon, so ride out there and check it out before they designate it wilderness. I’ll end this pictorial journey with one of the strangest sights I’ve come across in the Oregon desert.

A large portion of my life has been spent in Eastern Oregon, so I have covered a lot of ground there and still have a lot left to explore. I’ll cover some of my favorites here to give you an idea of what can be found if you get off the beaten path.
Coyote with 6pack of beer!
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