Three Forks

  • Moderate
  • 4.2 miles round trip
  • 50 feet elevation gain
  • Open except after rains
  • Use: hikers

  • Difficult
  • 4.4-mile loop
  • 900 feet elevation gain

Hot springs pools perch between waterfalls on the bank of the Owyhee River, deep in a spectacular desert canyon of red rock cliffs. At the oasis-like confluence of three river canyons, Three Forks is one of the most remote places in Oregon, wedged against the borders of Idaho and Nevada.

Surprisingly, the area was more heavily trafficked in the 1800s. “Owyhee” was a common 19th-century spelling for Hawaii. The river won its name when two Hawaiians, hired by the Hudson’s Bay Company as beaver trappers, were killed near the river by Indians in 1819. Despite the Indian danger, thousands of gold miners and ore wagons passed through Three Forks on their way from Silver City, Idaho to the railroad in Winnemucca, Nevada in the late 1860s. After the Bannock Indian War of 1878, the Army built an outpost at Three Forks to keep an eye on the local Paiutes. Today fragments of the area’s 19th-century wagon roads help hikers make their way through the canyonlands, but it’s still best to come prepared for cross-country routefinding and knee-deep river fords.

To drive here …

Adventurous pathfinders can …

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon.