Owyhee, South Fork, Idaho, US/Nevada, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-III+ (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||12 fpm|
Brad Roberts testified:
THE SOUTH FORK
The South Fork of the upper Owyhee, from head of the canyon putin at the YP (aka Petan) Ranch in Nevada to confluence with East Fork, is an easy 30- odd mile paddle through some of the most remote and spectacular canyon country in the continental U.S.
Unlike the East Fork, it is not a whitewater run. At flows above 250 cfs, an amateur can easily do it in an open canoe. There are three class 3 rapids and a diversion dam to contend with. At flows above 3000 cfs, the threes are largely washed out. At lower flows, some parts may have to be lined depending on skill. The diversion dam at 45 Ranch used to be runnable. However, it was blown out during the '93 flood and rebuilt with nice, sharp rip-rap. Use your own judgment. The portage is easy.
7-days. 120 miles. We put-in at a local ranch in Nevada, miles from nowhere. The first three days of this trip does not have the tight, rocky, nearly impassable rapids that are found on the East Fork. The South Fork meets the East Fork on the fourth day, so the last three days of this trip are the same as the last three of the East Fork trip. There is at least one portage below the confluence of the two forks. (A portage requires that we carry all gear around the rapids. Sometimes we can let the rafts through on ropes (called "lining,") but this depends on water levels. If we can't line the rafts, we have to carry them as well. Hence the beauty of using lighter inflatable kayaks.)
Landmarks along the way include:
*12-Mile Cabin: Homesteader ruin on right bank about 12 miles down from put in. Here, the relatively open basalt canyon begins to narrow to the familiar vertical-walled rhyolite canyon that the upper Owyhee is known for.
*Devil's Corral Rapid: Short class 3. No big deal.
*El Paso Pipline Crossing: Road access. Alternate put-in. Warning: road was blown out during '93 flood. Don't know if it's been rebuilt. Probably not. Things move slowly (if at all) over there.
*Devils Pinball Rapids: A two-mile-long series of fun class 3 bumps leading to the Idaho border. Open canoes may have to line some parts depending on skill.
*Bull Camp. Homesteader ruin on right bank. This was the camp of Claude Dallas when he killed the Idaho Fish and Game cops. His camp was located directly across the river about 50 feet up the bank.
*Coyote Hole: Homesteader ruin on right bank. First good source of fresh spring water. Lots of thundereggs lying about. The ruin is a work of art. Lots of thought and talent went into building this stone structure. Classic Basque brush corral and old farm equipment.
*Sentinal Rapid: Short class three. No big deal. Lead-in to deepest, narrowest part of upper canyon. Spectacular scenery and lots of Mountain sheep from here on.
*45 Dam. Diversion dam for 45 ranch.
*45 Ranch. Alternate putin if you want to cut a couple of days off your trip. Do not camp on Ranch property!
*Confluence with East Fork. Soggy Sneakers takes it from here.
Self issue permit can be downloaded from BLM website.