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My trip plans were turned upside down with an early winter cold front coming through eastern Oregon.  Low clouds and three days of rain in the valleys and snow at the top of the Steens.  I saw a pickup truck with globs of mud everywhere, a warning to not travel on dirt (now muddy) roads. My planned backroad travels had to be canceled.  Unsure of what to do; with choices of staying at the Page Spring Campground or traveling north, south, east or west; I went to eat breakfast at the Frenchglen Hotel.  Not surprisingly the restaurant was full of people just like me, mulling over what to do.  Swapping stories about where we had been, one couple sang the praise of the Owyhee River and the Lake Owyhee State Park campground.  With paved roads the entire way, that was where I chose to go next and I was glad I did.

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Owyhee dam  Photo credit.  Wikimedia Commons Clayton Fraser

The drive through the canyon to the lake was spectacular.   Rock walls were on both sides of the road, a stunning surprise since I had little expectations and knowledge of the area.  Once at the dam, the road made a steep climb to the top of the dam and to the lake.  From that point to the campground the road is blasted into a steep rock face with no guard rails.  One scary road for me.  I looked for a place to turn around and there was none, I had no choice but to continue driving to the campground.  Fortunately, I was the only one on the road, so I drove at 15 mph in the center of the road, all the way to the campground.  I was so very glad there wasn’t someone behind me forcing to drive faster.  Most people will find the road a pleasant drive, only the few people with irrational fears like me will not like it.

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Locations facts:

  • There are places to camp along the road prior to the lake.  Not a lot of privacy from the road, but there wasn’t much traffic on the road when I was there.
  • The Owyhee dam came on line in 1932.  It was the tallest dam of its type in the world at that time.  There is a museum at the bottom of the dam but it wasn’t open when I was there.  I took a walk to the face of the dam which I enjoyed.
  • The Bureau of Reclamation operates the dam and manages a small campground at the bottom of the dam.
  • There isn’t much to do at the lake state park campground except for activates related to water.  Because of the steep rock walls surrounding the lake, the only place to go for a walk is along the road.
  • When I was there in late September there were four of us spending the night.
  • Map
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