After departing Leslie Gulch we made our way across the sagebrush sea to Birch Creek. Not having been there I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was hoping to find a place to spend the night.
The Owyhee Country is a vast expanse. Considering the area drained by the Owyhee River you are looking at portions of 3 states. A four-day weekend is enough to just scratch the surface. Travelling across a lot of this country you are driving through vast areas of sagebrush and cheatgrass punctuated by a ranch here and there, but there are a lot of hidden gems. You get to the edge of some rimrock and all the sudden it is like you are in another world. I suspected as much from Birch Creek after the sights of Succor Creek and Leslie Gulch, but after 20 miles of rough dirt road and dry cheatgrass you start to question yourself. Is there really something out here worth driving all this way? When we reached the warning sign of 8 miles of steep dirt road ahead where four-wheel drive was highly recommended we knew we were in the right place.
After bouncing our way down the road we arrived at what is now the historic Birch Creek Ranch. Originally two separate ranches established around 1900, they came under one ownership in the ’70s. The BLM was able to purchase the ranch in 1988 and now it is open to the public.
We found a row of camps along the old field just downstream from the river takeout. With a river view on one side, views of outstanding rock pinnacles on the other and only one other camper at the far end of the field we ended up with a great camp.
Fish were jumping in the river which we soon determined, based on a bit of non destructive sampling, were smallmouth bass. As the ranch is a ‘safety zone’ (no shooting) there were all kinds of mule deer hanging out and several made the trip through camp on what seemed like and evening ritual of moving between fields.
It was soon dark and we settled in around a blazing fire as the stars came out. The next morning we explored a bit around the ranch. After a hundred years there is a lot of history at a place and the ranch is on the national historic register. There are several interesting structures including a house carved out of stone and a waterwheel that was used for irrigation.
There’s also a fair bit of farm machinery, some appearing more improvised than others.
It’s a beautiful setting, but I’m sure they earned the living they made from the ranch.
You could definitely spend a day or two here hiking the canyons and enjoying the river around the ranch. We didn’t have a day or two because we had another destination planned so we enjoyed a few more views and headed out.
After departing Birch Creek we were right next door to Jordan Craters so we made a side trip to explore the lava flow. Jordan Craters is a vast lava flow with one area thought to have been active around 100 years ago. Access is at a large crater called Coffeepot crater which also features a series of spatter cones that all erupted in a line.
After a quick hike around the craters and cones we headed back across the sagebrush sea to our next destination, even more remote, chalk basin. But that’s a story for tomorrow.