ASTORIA — Members of the public will have a special opportunity to take a vicarious journey with author Bonnie Olin into one of the most remote areas in the lower 48 states — the Owyhee canyonlands in southeast Oregon — by way of a talk, slideshow and film.
The presentation will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3 at the Astoria Public Library, located at 450 10th St. If you are an outdoor enthusiast or an armchair adventurer, you won’t want to miss seeing the Owyhee, because you won’t find yourself there on the way to anywhere else.
The Owyhee is a desert region that spans the border of Idaho, Oregon and a small part of Nevada. Centered on the Owyhee River and the Owyhee Mountains, the region covers an area of about 9 million acres and is roughly the size of the two small states of Maryland and Rhode Island combined. It is home to one of largest remaining herds of bighorn sheep and many other wild plants and animals, such as endangered sage grouse.
While Idaho’s section of the Owyhee is protected as a wilderness area, the same cannot be said for Oregon’s section. During her presentation, Olin will talk about the Owyhee’s geogarphy, natural history and environment as well as legislation and other efforts underway to protect the area and designate it as a wilderness area.
Olin has been kayaking with her husband Mike Quigley for 27 years, using rivers as their highways into the wild. Quiqley has been familiar with the Owyhee since the mid 1970s and introduced Olin to the canyonlands in 1993. Together, they have spent the last 23 years exploring the canyons, kayaking the river and hiking the side canyons from river to rim countless times. They know, from first-hand experience, that there are many reasons to protect this region.
“The canyon geology offers some of the most stunning visual examples of rhyolite formations on our planet,” Olin said. “It is unlike Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands or the Grand Canyon. We have a golden opportunity to protect a landscape like no other in the lower 48 states that could easily qualify for National Park status. It is public land. It belongs to all of us. And yet, the Oregon section of the region remains unprotected.”
Olin began her advocacy for the protection of the Owyhee with the publication of her book, “The Owyhee River Journals.” She self published the book because larger publishing firms felt the Owyhee was too unknown to have much of a market. However, two editors encouraged her to pursue the project on her own. Featuring the photography of her husband, the book is considered a writing of record and came to fruition, in part, because Olin couldn’t find a book on the Owyhee that she was looking for — one bursting with full-color photos showing all the stems of the river canyon including the most remote regions.
“I wanted to share the Owyhee that I knew, first with family and friends, but eventually with everyone, to increase awareness of the area, in the hope that once people saw the unique beauty of these canyonlands, they might find it a special place worthy of preservation and support those efforts,” she said.
To reach her audience, she developed a program which includes a talk, a slideshow and a movie, that together, will take the audience on a vicarious journey deep into the Owyhee Canyonlands, from Nevada, through Idaho and Oregon. “For seeing it, I believe, is the next best thing to being there. And it is crucial to see it, to have an understanding of its importance,” she said.
The book includes an abundance of photographs that feature the entire river system and reveal the beauty of the inner canyon corridor. The movie video titled “Deep Creek & the Owyhee River” is a story of an expedition into the Owyhee canyon by inflatable kayaks in 2006 that begins on the Deep Creek tributary of the East Fork of the Owyhee River in Idaho, continues on into the East Fork and ends at Three Forks, in Oregon. It is a view of the upper regions of the Owyhee River that few people see, and helps one to understand the significance of this last hidden jewel of the West.
A petition supporting protections for the Owyhee by the Oregon Natural Desert Association and information on the conservation proposal will also be available at the event.
Olin was born and raised in Springfield and has ties to the communities of Astoria and Chinook. Her grandfather, John Olin, was known as the “logger organist of Astoria.” He had nine children, six with his second wife Ellen Catrina Lindstrom. Their youngest son and Bonnie Olin’s father, Eldon R. Olin, went on to become a timber cruiser, road surveyor and artist. Eldon depicted the lives of the people in the timber industry in Oregon in his pen and ink drawings and Oregon landscapes in oil on canvas. His wife Bernice started a business selling reproductions of his work in the 1970s, and is still in business.