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Homesteads | Idaho-wyhee #2

With daytime temperatures in the high-80s °F, we figured that getting an early start on our six-mile hike to Cave Draw would allow us the most pleasant experience, so I'd set my alarm for 5:30am - enough time to get ready to go just as the sun was peeking over the horizon half an hour later.

A nice golden glow camouflaged the Tacoma nicely.

Cave Draw, a three-mile long drainage that leads to the Bruneau River, was a place that piqued my interest as I researched the area. Generally accessed by floating the waterway - something that's only possible during the month of May on high water years - one particular photo I found was enticing enough to plan this entire trip around.

I hoped we could recreate this composition! (photo by Steve Stuebner)

The drainage started out as a mere depression of the land, the green grass flowing down the hillsides, our path meandering for a mile or more in a broad wash. Eventually, we reached the first steps of volcanic boulders, the drainage becoming more overgrown and our progress slowing for the second mile of the three-mile "out" segment of our journey.

In the cool morning air, the sun provided some nice warmth.

Further down the drainage, shade was the name of the game as the temperature started to climb.

Bushwacking our way through sage, and weaving a pack over boulders, we stumbled on this arrow rock, conveniently pointing the towards our destination.

After the second mile, canyon walls soared sharply overhead.

With less than a mile to go, it seemed as though we'd found an alternate - if slightly longer - route to this special place. At the very least, our pace began to quicken as we hadn't run into any insurmountable obstacles. Then - right on cue - I knew we were finished. A couple hundred feet ahead of us, the bottom of the wash dropped out from under our feet - a series of chimney-like 75-foot dry falls plummeting down to the best that Cave Draw had to offer.

The steep narrows, impassable without proper rigging and training.

There wasn't just one fall - we could see at least three.

Just out of reach - around the lowest bend - the caves we'd hoped to reach.

It was only 7:15am, and we'd been foiled. I suppose we should have expected to find what we did - I've never found any mention of hiking to Cave Draw - but I must admit that we were a little bummed as we picked our way back up the drainage to the Tacoma, our sights now set on the remainder of the day, our hopes high that the remaining foray's into the canyons of the Owyhee would be more successful than the first.

A two-point antler from last year's rut was nestled into the tall grass.

We found three of these buggers during the trip, luckily all of them on the outside of our clothing!

Back in the high desert, we'd soon retraced our steps from the Bruneau River to Sheep Creek as we approached Louis S Eastman's place.

Reaching Rowland Road - the main north-south artery of the region - we turned south towards a series of homesteads and overlooks that would take us all the way to the Nevada border.

The first order of business was finding a place to eat lunch, preferably with a bit of shade. Having skipped breakfast - and though it was only 11:00am - our four-mile hike left us both hungry, but not hungry enough to brave the sun that was beating down, already warming the air to the mid-80s °F.

It may come as no surprise to those who know the area, but ultimately our search for a tree was unsuccessful.

Homesteads - like Joe White's old stone cabin - are sprinkled across the Owyhee, much of the history lost to time.

The grazers were enjoying the all-you-can-eat buffet that is the three-week period of green grass.

Tt or T+? Not sure, and there are several possibilities in the Idaho Brand Book.

Winding our way down towards Cat Creek.

After twenty minutes - and a grand total of zero trees to shade us from the sun, we found ourselves crossing the old wooden bridge to the John Cowan Place. Nestled along Cat Creek, only a bit of shade would have made it a more perfect setting to poke around for a few minutes while turkey sandwiches and Cheetos magically materialized on the tailgate of the Tacoma.

Cat Creek was full, necessitating a quick integrity check of the bridge before we gingerly made our way across.

The main cabin.

Bedroom view.

At one time, the cabin had been nicely insulated from the cold winters and driving winds with a diagonal layer of trees sandwiching a thick layer of mud.

A double ridge beam surely helped to support the snow load through the long winter months.

A smaller cabin - made fancy with a corner window.

A bit of old farming equipment lay around the site, I wasn't sure what this piece was for.

Our bellies full, and the sun directly overhead, we retreated to the cover of the air-conditioned cab as quickly as we could after refilling our water bottles and putting away what little we'd used to make lunch. This lasted just long enough for @mrs.turbodb to cool down and nod off, before we found ourselves at one of the more dramatic overlooks of the day at a spot just above Fred Robertson's Place.

This system of canyons never fails to impress.

Down along the creek, a few poplar - surely planted by Robertson - are sure to outlive the old structures he once occupied.

Looking to the south.

And to the north.

Having interrupted my companion's prime nap time, it seemed only fitting to allow her a few extra moments before the next stop. As such, I sped past a few places I'd marked and followed the undulating, well-graded road all the way to the Nevada border.

A bit of snow across the border on the Bruneau Mountains (aka The Mahoganies) made for pleasant views.

As we crossed the border into Nevada we got a view of the distant Jarbidge Mountains and Scotts Table before turning around.

For a long time, we thought of Owyhee as a region of Southeast Oregon - specifically the area in and around the small town of Jordan Valley - with the Owyhee River serving as a centerpiece to Jordan Craters, Leslie Gulch, and of course, the Succor Creek Natural Area. It is - we now know - a much larger place, spanning a large swath of southwest Idaho, and a good chunk of northern Nevada. And, while we've visited the Idaho slice a couple of times, the Nevada potion remains completely unexplored - only a fleeting visit as part of the Nevada Backcountry Discovery Route (NVBDR) as we passed through Jarbidge.

But now was not the time to change all that - this was a trip to Idaho-wyhee - so after making a u-turn in the middle of the road, we retraced our path under sunny skies and puffy clouds to a few of the places we'd passed in our journey south.

Our first stop was Fred Hall's old homestead. Now, a cattle nursery, all the mama cows and their newborns gathered into a small area, allowing the ranchers to keep a close eye on the next generation.

A quick stop at two of the larger ranches in the area - the TM Ranch and the Tokenbambi - where living off the land continues to this day.

By now it was nearing 4:00pm and while we had a plan - a place I hoped to be the highlight of our trip - in mind for the evening - it seemed only prudent to visit a nearby overlook of Sheep Creek before we headed back towards the Bruneau River for the remainder of our time.

Soon, we were overlooking one of the deep, winding, gorges that this place is famous for and even in the hot afternoon air, we both spent a good 10 minutes admiring the view.

Part of me wanted to hike the 800 feet down to the river, but then I remembered how old I'm getting.

Expansive view.

With that, I knew it was time for something very special. As we once again retraced our path towards Rowland Road, I did my best to prep my co-pilot for what was ahead.

"I think this is going to be similar to the steep road down into Indian Hot Springs," I warned her. "And once we're there, I don't know if there will be a road along the river, or if we're going to have to hike a couple miles."

Knowing that the road to Indian Hot Springs wasn't anywhere near her top-10 list of favorite roads, I was relieved when the only reaction I got was a sideways glance. In the end, I probably deserved a lot more flack for what we were about to do as we went... Over the Edge.




The Whole Story


  1. Sherry VD
    Sherry VD June 24, 2023

    Spectacular views/shots! That cabin insulation image is fascinating.

    • turbodb
      turbodb June 29, 2023

      Thanks Sherry! Glad you're enjoying them! ?

  2. Kenny
    Kenny June 25, 2023

    The TM Ranch, Louis Eastman, and Tokenbamby Ranch are owned by Simplot Cattle Company. The ranch hands at each place generally last about 3 to 4 years on average due to the remoteness of family life.

    The canyon overlooks are spectacular and make one question why these pioneers came to this place. But then during the Homestead act times, the Government only gave out land that was undesirable to get a population started there. These men and women and children were the original pioneers that knew nothing but hard work.

    Before the pioneers came to this area in the 1800's the fur trappers blazed the trails in the 1700's trapping beavers. Only a small group survived these times and food was sparse and some ended up eating the beavers and their wore out horses in the brutal winters. Now there are few beavers left so be sure to take all you will need as the stores are nowhere to be found.

    At one time there were a lot more trees in the area and the sagebrush was 8 to 10 feet tall, once most of this was depleted a lot of the homesteaders sold out or just left for a better life. A lot of the trees were freighted in from Mountain Home on the stage route to Jordan Valley.

    There are small homesteads spotted throughout the area that are difficult to reach without an off trail rig like yours or an ATV. Only occasionally will you ever come across another human being due to the remoteness.

    For future travelers to this little slice of heaven be mindful of your adventure and respect the ranches and the land for future generations to enjoy. Only leave with memories and pack out your trash.

    As Roy Rogers sang at the end of each episode, Happy Trails!

    Happy Trails!

    JOHN D MORAN June 25, 2023

    Very nice travelogue as always. Places that we can't visit but enjoy seeing through your eyes and adventures. Thanks again for sharing!

  4. jan suurholma
    jan suurholma July 19, 2023

    as allways, nice to read your tripreports. keep'em coming

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