Trip Report
Owyhee adventures: rock, cows, ticks, guns, Prehistoric women, & secret Air Force bombing sites.
Tuesday July 5, 2011 1:10am
Happy 4th of July!

Heidi and I, and friend Stein did a trip out to the Owyhee desert on Sat & Sun: to let him photograph a solstice petroglyph site, and to hunt for more petroglyphs. We were also searching these remote desert high-lands for any remaining tribes of "prehistoric women."

Great place to go if you don't want to share the high desert with anyone else. We did not see other tourists off the paved highway in two days.

A perfect camping trip for old curmudgeons: no screaming children, barking dogs, noisy vehicles, loud music from neighbors, or crowded camp-spots.
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This area is jointly ruled by the BLM (bureau of livestock & mining) and the U.S. Air Force: and is not the usual "camper-friendly" 4th of July retreat.

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Air force facilities in Owyhee Desert, that we got to enjoy.

ND-4 is the name of this site west of Grasmere. It is designated as an “Industrial Complex” and is used by the modern Air Force as a "real site" to do "virtual attacks" on. The attackers "light-up" the sensors at the "Industrial Complex" with targeting lasers, and then evade the mock "SAM" (surface to air missile) sites nearby.

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Just west of the Air Force "Industrial Complex" is the one-time thriving town of Grasmere.

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There are always interesting sites along Idaho's backcountry roads!

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The petroglyphs were good and we found a mesa-top with very interesting rock walls. Hard to determine if the walls were used as blinds for herding deer and antelope, or for a hill fort. I think a little of both.

The wild-flowers were near peak bloom, we did a little 3rd classing on good basalt------and by the way: no other people!

There was even some evidence of "prehistoric women."

On the 4th of July!

More to follow.

  Trip Report Views: 4,437
About the Author
Fritz is a trad climber from Choss Creek, ID.

Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
  Jul 5, 2011 - 01:30am PT
Heidi may have doubts about being described as a "prehistoric woman".
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
  Jul 5, 2011 - 01:32am PT
Hey! I resemble that remark.

I pack along screaming children these days, but we tend to go places where no is around so odds are we won't run into you.

Is that cap and ball? Or one of them new fangled shell type pistols.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Jul 5, 2011 - 01:35am PT
Love that Owyhee country. Thanks for taking me back there!

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Jul 5, 2011 - 01:43am PT
Mighty Hiker: Stein & I did not share that we were also looking for "lost tribes of prehistoric women" with Heidi.

She doesn't believe they exist.

Alien invader sites, near the secret Air Force instalations??


Doug & Tom: I am honored to have you along!

Big Wall climber
Republic, WA
  Jul 5, 2011 - 01:55pm PT
Herr Fritzmeister, I love your high desert TRs. That Owyhee country has always fascinated me. Have you ever fished in the Owyhee River? I hear there are some decent trout in there.

Boulder climber
  Jul 5, 2011 - 02:05pm PT
Awesome, any shots of the petros or rock walls? Thanks for the tr.

Released into general population, Idaho
  Jul 5, 2011 - 02:21pm PT
Ticks. Yum. Tastey lil fuggers.

And those sweet Owahhee cowpyze. Brown n crusty on the outside. Green n creamy on the inside.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Jul 5, 2011 - 02:54pm PT
Chix with guns is always a good TR.

Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Jul 5, 2011 - 03:27pm PT
Walther and a Smith on the table?

Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
  Jul 5, 2011 - 03:51pm PT
Good to see you're following Idaho Fish & Game standard regulations:

"Campers must carry alcohol, tobacco & firearms at all times."


I always love traveling through the Owyhee countree. I believe that is the Idaho locals spelling of the great desert area where a Hawaiian native once visited and got lost in the early part of the last century.

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Jul 5, 2011 - 04:33pm PT
Thanks all for posting up! Wayno: I have not fished the Owyhee River, but the most noted trout fishery is way downstream, below Owyhee Reservoir in Oregon.

The mostly inaccessible upper Owyhee, near Duck Valley Indian Reservation supposedly fishes well too. There are also some lakes on the Reservation that I have fished. Big, big trout--but most are also highly selective. You do need a tribal fishing permit too.

Brian: You get points for identifying the pistols and Spider for the quote!

OK on with the more pleasant part of our Owyhee adventure!

On our first day, we drove in about 13 miles from the highway on steadily worsening dirt roads. Stein was leading, and kept ploughing through deeper and deeper mud-holes, until he finally lost traction on a uphill piece of road, through a wet meadow.

We were able to rescue him.

From there we hiked to a mesa that featured a long narrow peninsula, and a lake on its top.

We poked around the south wall of the narrow peninsula, unsuccessfully looking for petroglyphs, and then 3rd classed up 25' of solid basalt to the mesa-top (in Idaho-speak-“table-top”).

The narrow peninsula on the mesa-top was covered with interesting and seemingly very ancient, rock walls. It was not possible for us to all agree if the walls were used as blinds for hunting deer and antelope, or for a hill fort. I think some of both: since two of the walls run clear across the peninsula.

We then walked a mile or so of rough lava rock to the large table-top lake. It was white with sediments from recent rain. This reminded us how short the “sweet spot” is for the Owyhee desert. One week earlier, and we would not have been able to negotiate the many mud-holes going into this spot. Two weeks from now, the grass will all be dry and very flammable.

On the way out to find a dryer camp-spot where we would not be eaten alive by mosquitos, we hiked to another prominant south-facing table-top. We searched for about a 1/4 mile and again did not find petroglyphs. Stein finally got bored and 3rd classed to the table-top. No rock walls either.

We camped in the middle of a road where another vehicle could pass. No vehicles, no people, but the mosquitoes found us at twilight.

Over dinner and drinks, we decided to eschew a hike into Crab Creek Basin the next morning. Instead, we would drive back to the highway, then see if we could drive into the solar petroglyh site.

Please stay tuned for cows and petroglyphs!


Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Jul 5, 2011 - 04:49pm PT
Here's a couple Google Earth Images.

First the mesa with the white lake and the walls. Probably taken late summer, early fall.

Here's the Air Force fake "Industrial Complex" bombing target.


Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Jul 5, 2011 - 09:20pm PT
Roxjox: We put Deet on our shoes and pants. In a life-time of collecting woodticks: three in an hour is pretty good.

As the man that coined the slogan, and printed this 70's bumper sticker with the slogan: I have always believed it would be "simple justice" if I catch "tick fever."

We made it through some more mud-holes, green cow feces landmines, and tall rocks: up to the Solstice petroglyph site.

Heidi and I assured Stein that he wouldn't appreciate the site, unless he searched for it. We shooed him up the hillside to the correct basalt cliff and I mentioned he had 30 minutes before high noon to find the Solstice site.

There are a fair number of good petroglyphs in the general area, but we had to keep Stein moving toward the Solstice site, since the best chance of seeing the dagger of sunlight mark the Solstice petroglyph would likely be at mid-day.

We finally got there a little late, but it was also July 3rd, not June 21. There was a dagger of sunlight, but it did not intersect the petroglyph.

Stein thought the site was pretty cool anyway.

The Solstice petroglyph was discovered by 2 young children playing, while their anthropologist father looked at petroglyphs with a friend. Makes sense to me. It is in a very narrow and dark crevice and would be a great place for a rattlesnake to hang out.

We spent quite a while at this great spot. Stein only caught one woodtick. We then drove back out to the highway and did one more drive and hike before heading home. We bagged a few more petroglyphs, an upside down car, and four more ticks.

Sorry no prehistoric women were to be found!

Happy 4th of July!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Jul 5, 2011 - 09:53pm PT
Great TR Fritz-I love that area. Have you run the Owyhee River?

Have heard some great stories from Rick Barker on running it in the spring, some interesting rapids to say the least.

I remember a roadside plaque to Sacajawea somewhere in that area? Near Jordan Valley? She gave birth to her son there?

I am the question man.

Skinner's Rockhouse in Jordan Valley is a great place for a cup of Joe.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jul 5, 2011 - 10:06pm PT
Thanks Fritz, nice pics, loves the petroglyphs.
I also love the Idaho culture, cows and rusted cars, it ain't getting any gooder, ya her!

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Jul 5, 2011 - 10:49pm PT
Guido & Ezra: Thanks for the comments.

Guido: I have only boated the Owyhee from Rome, OR to Owyhee Reservoir. I think a 3 night Class III+ trip. Scenic, but that trip across the reservoir to Leslie Gulch was a long one.

We were never in the right place, at the right time to do the Upper Owyhee. I hate portages too.

Re your mention of Sacagawea: her son died somewhere in SE Oregon. He had an evenfull life. There is a historical marker along Hwy 95.

Sacagawea’s son Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, or “Pompy,” was three months old when the Corps of Discovery left Fort Mandan,ND. After the Lewis & Clark Expedition: his parents accepted William Clark’s offer to educate him, and he moved into Clark’s St. Louis home when he was six.

At age 18, he went to Europe for six years with Duke Paul of Wuerttemburg, an enthusiastic early tourist of the American West. Returning to the U.S., Jean Baptiste became a mountain man and fur trader, and a guide whose clients included John C. Frémont.

He later settled in California, and died in Oregon, en route to Montana, in 1866.
I haven't been to the Jordan Valley coffee-shop. Last trip through we toured the lava-rock house that the Basque president of U.S. Bankcorp grew up in. It is now a museum.

We were on our way up to South Mountain for the view,the sunsets, and some hiking with 0 tourists.

It looks like the summit of South Mountain is about to become an open-pit gold mine.


Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Jul 6, 2011 - 09:32pm PT
Stein just sent me this lizard and petroglyph photo from our trip.

I like it!