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Painted Hills

Road trip from Crystal Crane Hot Springs onwards to Leslie Gulch

Written by Oregon Media

Road trip from Crystal Crane Hot Springs onwards to Leslie Gulch

Hopscotch through tiny towns in the remote desert to one of the most wild and scenic gorges in the west. Crystal Crane

Crane is home to Crystal Crane Hot Springs, an oasis for weary travelers that invites a soak in the natural mineral spring pools under expansive Eastern Oregon skies. Onwards to Rome, you’ll find Rome Station and great milkshakes and tater tots. Rome was named for the imposing formations of fossil-bearing clay that resemble Roman ruins.

Famous Journeys and Journeymen

In Danner, east of Rome, visit the Grave of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of the French Canadian Interpreter Toussaint Charbonneau and Sacagawea, the Shoshone Guide of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In Jordan Valley, grab a cup of coffee, a home-baked snack or some ice cream and friendly conversation in the historic stone building Rockhouse Coffee.

Northwest of Jordan Valley down a bumpy dirt road is Birch Creek Ranch, a BLM-run Owyhee River gem with twenty-six structures, purchased as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Stake

Birch Creek Ranch

a tent at one of the primitive campsites.

Wild, Scenic and Protected

On to the Owyhee Canyon and Leslie Gulch, where the river cuts through a remote and rugged canyon. One of the most scenic rivers in the Northwest, the Owyhee begins in the mountains of western Idaho and empties into Oregon’s Owyhee Reservoir, passing by 1,000-foot rhyolite cliffs, 9,000-year-old petroglyphs, fauna and riverside hot springs. In Leslie Gulch, bighorn sheep, mule deer and elk deftly traverse the precious metal-hued volcanic tuff formations. Years of advocacy have kept the area off limits to natural resource development.

BYO Good Tires and Extra Water

Owyhee River A road trip through the Owyhee Canyonlands means rocky, rutted and often muddy roads, and you must bring plenty of your own gas, food and water. In summer, prepare for hot weather and little shade—but plenty of scenery. Multiday whitewater rafting trips are offered by a number of outfitters who guide boats through quiet sections broken up by adrenaline-inducing rapids. Hike Jordan Canyons or Painted Canyon Loop, and camp at Slocum Creek Campground or Succor Creek State Natural Area. End your day on the lower Owyhee River, where you’ll find Oregon’s finest brown trout fishery tucked up against the Idaho border.