Lake Owyhee State Park and Owyhee Lake

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Leslie Gulch

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This remote park is a 53 mile lake whose name is a variation on the word Hawaii. Early explorers included some Hawaiians and the name was given to the Owyhee River to honor two Hawaiians who were killed by Native Americans. This is a very rugged part of Oregon so please plan ahead before visiting here or Succor Creek State Recreational Area. There are no stores for supplies so stock up in Ontario or Nyssa before you leave “civilization” (there is a small market at Owyhee called Owyhee Grocery). From Nyssa, travel south on 201 for eight miles to the community of Owyhee. Turn right on Owyhee Avenue and travel west for four miles to Owyhee Lake Road. Take this road 19 miles to the dam and follow the signs to the state park. This is one of the most scenic drives in Oregon, so it is well worth the trip. The birding is good too.

Lake Owyhee State Park Brochure and Map

A good side trip here is to bird a two track road that borders a ditch next to the Owyhee River and gets you very close to the cottonwoods and alder thickets that line the river. From Owyhee, go 3.5 miles on Owyhee Avenue just as if you were going to Owyhee Reservoir. Travel 3.5 miles and look for the Owyhee Ditch that flows under the road. Take the dirt road that follows the ditch. This three mile road will expose you to plenty of riparian areas that are full of birds. The road is good for passenger cars in good weather only. There are few areas to turn around here so be prepared to back out if road conditions prove to be too much for your vehicle (It’s really pretty smooth).


Habitat and Birds

Canyon species like Chukar, Rock Wren, Canyon Wren, and Lazuli Bunting are common. Say’s Phoebes inhabit the slopes and the riparian areas can produce just about any migrant. Check the numerous riparian areas at your leisure. Many are in a hurry to get to the reservoir so they fail to bird the riparian areas that precede it. This is a mistake. Watch the gull flocks. Herring Gull has been seen here before. A Black-billed Cuckoo record (not accepted by OBRC) came from an area near here and it has been described as, “the best habitat for Yellow-billed Cuckoo in Oregon” (Contreras and Kindschy, OFO Publication #8).