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Owyhee Canyon Wilderness Study Area

Wilderness Area Status

Wilderness Study Area
Year Designated:

Act or Law:
Acres: 21875
State Region: Northeast Nevada
County Regions: Elko   


Managing Agency: Bureau of Land Management
Local District: Elko Field Office
Contact Info: (775) 753-0200
3900 East Idaho Street  Elko, NV89801
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Area Description

The Owyhee Canyon Wilderness Study Area is a land of desert canyon, high plateau and whitewater. The western part of this WSA is gently-rolling country blanketed with sagebrush, bitterbrush and bunchgrass. The eastern third is a basin cut by over 20 miles of 100-to-300 foot deep canyons, including 18 miles of the South Fork Owyhee River. Walls of the narrow, meandering canyons are mostly vertical. Canyon depth creates a tremendous sense of seclusion from the rest of the world.

Riparian areas support narrow bands of lush grasses, rushes and sedges.

Wildlife includes mule deer, pronghorn antelope, mountain lion, bobcat, coyote, river otter, beaver, raptors, waterfowl, chukar and other birds, as well as redband trout. California bighorn sheep may move into the area from the adjoining South Fork Owyhee River WSA.

The scenic landforms and diversity attract hunters, fishers and campers. River running on the South Fork Owyhee River is exceptional. Talus slopes encourage visitors to travel between the river and the plateau. Most hikers prefer the canyon rims, which are easier going than the canyon deeps. Hiking on the rims and plateau provide vast vistas. From high points on the plateau, thousands of square miles of open space - stretching from the Steens Mountains in Oregon to Juniper Mountain in Idaho to the Bull Run Mountains in Nevada - are visible. These vast, open spaces instill a sense of complete separation from civilization.

The combination of rushing water, colorful sheer cliffs, grassy talus slopes and blue sky creates a dramatic stark beauty that totally envelops the visitor. In places, red brown cliffs drop hundreds of feet to the water. Brilliant green, yellow and orange microflora tint the fractured, blocky, rock monoliths. Eroded spires frequently top the monoliths. Near the base of the cliffs, water sometimes seeps from fractures to nourish small, lush, clinging, deep green plant communities. The sheer rock walls often give way to steep slopes covered with mosaics of red rock rubble and subdued green and yellow vegetation.




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