I visited the Owyhee river/lake/reservoir region in the eastern Oregon desert from April 10-12 in 2008. It was the first sunny and really warm weekend of the year. I had planned to spend two nights camping next to the lake after hiking in. But the lake water is the only water available, and it looked terrible. To make matters worse, there were cows grazing all around, making the water that much less fit for consumption. I had brought some extra water with me, so I just make do with that and camped for one night, heading out
in the morning.
But I would recommend the area for dayhikes. The best part was the hike down Painted Canyon and the upper part of Carlton Canyon, above the meeting with Painted Canyon. These could easily be done as a dayhike, but clearly cows graze up there as well, though I only saw them lower down.
The Columbia River east of the gorge - getting into the desert
After the long 370 mile drive, I car camped in Succor Creek State Park, a very dramatic canyon east of the Owyhee.
There are campsites in the primitive campground on both sides of the creek. But most people are sleeping in campers, and I was the only person in a car. So nobody else could drive across the narrow bridge!
Three Finger Rock is a prominent landmark.
Whether I would be able to drive the rough backroads to the trailhead was a worry, but I made it with no problem.
The route starts on this jeep track for a mile and a half, which some might be able to drive.
Some photos from Painted Canyon. The intense sunlight washes out some of the color in the rocks. It was more vibrant than these look.
This is looking up Painted Canton from Carlton Canyon.
Going back up Painted Canyon on the return, a painted rock.
One of the half dozen or so pouroffs which must either be clambered over or bypassed.
A detour up Carlton Canyon a short distance is well worth the hike.
I call this Beak Rock - don't know if it has a name otherwise.