Saturday, June 6, 2009

Idaho's Hawaii

We took a day trip last Sunday into my favorite Idaho county, Owyhee. This vast chunk of country pretty much occupies the entire southwest corner of the state but is home to just under 11,000 people, and that's one of the reasons I like it so much. The road we drove is billed as the Owyhee Uplands Scenic Byway, which is exactly what it is but gives away nothing of what one can expect to see. It's a 103 mile loop that begins and ends in a little town on the Snake River called Grandview, passing through a corner of Oregon on the way.

The history of its name oddly connects this state with the state of Hawaii, "Owyhee" being another spelling of that state's name in olden times and one which was often used to refer to the native Hawaiians. Sometime way back in the early 1800's, probably around 1818, a few Owyhees joined a fur trading expedition into this remote territory. The impetuous islanders evidently strayed away from the main group to explore more of the territory and were never heard from again. Fur trappers began to call the area "Owyhee" and the name stuck, to the mountain range, the river, the canyon and finally the county.

It's a county of vast stretches of wild landscapes, including snowy peaks visible from Boise, ghost towns of Idaho's Silver boom, huge cattle ranches, and plenty of signs of the native Americans who were living there when those Owyhees first visited.

For me, it's a chance to step back into a time and a country that has changed little since frontier days and before. And to find an abundance of photographic challenges as well!

For a few more views of Owyhee county, please visit a page I've just added to my website: Owyhee. I probably won't keep this page up much longer as I intend to incorporate it into a general Idaho page so you'd better go there while the gettin's good!