Owyhee Canyonlands

Sean Bagshaw


John Cunningham, ONDA member and volunteer

John Cunningham, ONDA member and volunteer

Restoration is hard slow work. It takes hold, or it doesn’t, in fits and starts. The immensity of the need can be discouraging, but we must carry on. I am so thankful ONDA carries on.


Julie Weikel on Wilderness

Julie Weikel on Wilderness


Time Lapse: a night at Canyon Camp in six seconds

Time Lapse: a night at Canyon Camp in six seconds

An Oregon Treasure

Located in the far southeast corner of the state, Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands is one of the largest conservation opportunities in the American West. Boasting more than 2.5 million acres of exceptional wildlands and often described as “Oregon’s Grand Canyon,” the deep ravines, rocky spires, rolling sagebrush plains and rushing rivers are home to myriad fish and wildlife, abundant recreational opportunities, and feature some of the darkest night skies in the country.

A Unique and Fragile Landscape

Rugged, awesome geology

Millions of years in the making, the Owyhee Canyonlands is characterized by deep, humbling canyons, rocky hoodoos, majestic spires and a rainbow display of geologic layers. River gorges 17-million -years -old cut through the landscape, exposing layers of volcanic history and framing the diversity of habitats that support a rich array of species that inhabit the Owyhee today.

Abundant fish and wildlife

The Owyhee Canyonlands is home to more than 200 species of fish and wildlife, including the imperiled greater sage-grouse, golden eagle, pronghorn, California bighorn sheep and redband trout. More than 110 bird species migrate annually through the region and the complex geography in the Owyhee has created unique habitats that support 28 endemic plant species found nowhere else on Earth. The large, interconnected, intact ecosystems of the Owyhee are increasingly rare and critically important for biodiversity conservation in the West. 

Rich cultural history

The Owyhee Canyonlands is home to a rich cultural legacy for the Northern Paiute, Bannock and Shoshone tribes. Since time immemorial, the Owyhee Canyonlands has helped to shape the Indigenous cultures of the region and has supported a confluence of Columbia Plateau tribes to the Snake River Plain cultures and beyond. These ancestral lands hold extreme significance and reverence and the same landscapes, rivers, fish and wildlife support tribal traditions today. Continued leadership from Tribal and Indigenous communities is essential to conservation of the Owyhee for generations to come.

Outstanding recreational opportunities

The remote, intact Owyhee Canyonlands offers almost limitless recreation opportunities, including camping, hiking, stargazing, and hunting, as well as world class rafting, kayaking and angling along miles of rivers and streams. Hundreds of miles of the Oregon Desert Trail meander through the Owyhee, providing cherished and rare opportunities to experience solitude among the backcountry of the expansive plains, canyons and mountain ranges that make up the Owyhee Canyonlands.

A stunning Owyhee sunset

Tyson Fisher   Website

Unique geology near Leslie Gulch

Greg Burke   Website

Lupine blooms near Three Fingers

Mark Lisk   Website

Whitewater rafting on the Owyhee River

John Aylward

Unbelievable stargazing

John Aylward

Our Work to Protect Oregon's Owyhee Canyonlands

While its remoteness has long protected the Owyhee Canyonlands, development pressure, including gold, uranium and lithium mining, and potential oil and gas development is now clawing at its edges. One of the fastest growing urban areas in the country – Boise, Idaho – is just an hour away, bringing new challenges to recreation management. These threats, in addition to increasing impacts from climate change, add to the urgency of the need to protect the irreplaceable ecological, recreational and cultural resources on this landscape.

Oregon Natural Desert Association seeks to protect more than two million acres of public land in the Owyhee Canyonlands. ONDA envisions an Owyhee where plant and animal communities flourish, wide-open spaces abound, and local communities thrive.

Securing permanent protection

Oregon Natural Desert Association seeks to permanently protect the most ecologically important, culturally significant, and awe-inspiring public lands in the Owyhee Canyonlands through Congressional wilderness designation or a Presidentially proclaimed national monument. 

Improving conservation management

Oregon Natural Desert Association is achieving precedential new conservation measures for wildlands and wildlife in agency planning and policymaking that will benefit millions of acres of the Owyhee Canyonlands. 

Defending against landscape threats

Oregon Natural Desert Association is defending the Owyhee Canyonlands from existential threats that could forever mar the landscape, including intrusive military training and proposed mining.

Our favorite places in the Owyhee Canyonlands