500 Pounds of War Eagle Fame

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In the Owyhee country of 1864, on the slopes of War Eagle Mountain and the headwaters of Jordon Creek, one of the most rowdy, rough and tumble mining towns was born.  The civility was such in that town called Silver City, at about the 8000′ elevation level, makes one wonder if it was the rarefied air or smell of buried treasure that contributed the most to malfunctions of the bi-pedal  brain.  At least the mayhem  factor from all the  avarice that normally  follows the discovery of some precious gems or ores, is the more likely causation for poor human behavior.

Most mining camps of old have colorful, yet violent bent histories, when examined with the passage of time.  Silver City had quite the adequate reputation to qualify for a typical wild west profile. Perhaps one of the best in the west,  or worst, depending on the prism you view it through. But, it hardly matters which mining camp could claim the absolute winner for any such title of the west, as anyone killed in those places when they were at the zenith of their stardom, could care less when six feet under.

Ruby City was also nearby, within a  half mile of Silver City,  on that same nose bleed zone side slope of War Eagle Mountain. Competition was keen between the two towns, but Silver City seemed to win most of the time, as it was closest to the more productive mines. But the most famous was called the Poorman Man, (at $5000/ton) and at a 500′ depth  produced a 500 lb nugget (called the “Poorman Nugget”), found in 1865.  It contained  all silver and ruby crystals in one massive ball, and became legendary, earning gold metal in the 1866 Paris Exposition.

The ores from the Silver city mine were so rich, that they were  shipped to Wales to be specially processed.  The town was around 5000 people at its peak, (1866) and considering the number of  fives in everything associated with this town, one might deduce paying attention to astrology, if so inclined to being easily swayed by weird superstitions. Perhaps some of the miners were so influenced, as talk circulated for a while about Owyhee diamonds, though none were ever found. Or maybe that thinking was caused by another astrological event that happened in 1867 when a huge meteor flashed across the heavens. Some thought it signaled the end of the world, others were thinking treasure, like diamonds, at the end of the rainbow.

For me, the real treasure of the Owyhee  is contained in the flow of the river. It takes travelers to a landscape rich in scenic wonders beyond dollar bills.   The only competition now, is an occasional race for certain campsites, but even that is rare. At least since the mining era, civility has seemed to gain an inch or so, on the evolutionary ladder of time. The wild west today, is more in the wildness of landscape, rather than human greed.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.

Don’t Forget. Now is the time for Owyhee Trips – see previous post: How Alone Do You Want to Be?

For more river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.com

or (more pics)  Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun

800-488-9872

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Rome, Rome, Rome Everywhere.

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Rome, Italy. Rome, Oregon. What commonality do they have? Well, basically both contain remnant ruins of the famed “Coliseum.” One, a building by the hand of man, in Italy, and  the other, an elemental structure  by the hand of nature, in Oregon.  it is the Rome in Oregon, where we launch our float trips from for the Lower Owyhee River.

Not fare from the put-in is a little cafe/cabin complex.  Along with a host of scattered ranches amid the high desert sagebrush,  are pretty much the only things that give enough status to make  Rome, its qualifications as a town.   That is,  if you call a few hick-ups  and an eye-blink at the side of the main highway (itself a thin thread through the lonely desert) as being a community name.

In the old days (1800’s) this area was accessed  by an  old stagecoach road.  Where it traversed the river,  soon became known as the  “Owyhee Crossing.” Not far from there,  were white rock formations that looked like the Coliseum in Rome. Thus,  the name “Rome” stuck, and has been so used ever since.   This “Romeness” seems to be everywhere hinted at when floating the river. Several places take on that same character, due to the fact that most of these coliseum likenesses  occur in the same type of rock formation. Most all are formed from  a mud-clay like conglomerate of ancient lake and river sediments that have been sculpted by wind and weather. They offer mute testimony to the whims of nature, and have been converted into marvelously shaped  hoodoos, pinnacles, and variously twisted human-like figurines.

The real magic for such natural beauty is that it creates a fantasy like world for humans to jump right into the middle of. It is like being able to go beyond fantasies of the mind, and actually live one,  in the real world.  The power of it all, is that like an addiction, more is always wanted. So we oblige that natural pull of the deserts magic and make an annual pilgrimage there each spring. And often more than once, beecause  in this unique landscape,  once is never enough.  The fantasy of living a fantasy never ends.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.

Don’t Forget. Now is the time for Owyhee Trips – see previous post: How Alone Do You Want to Be?

For more river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.com

or (more pics)  Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun

800-488-9872

Does the Owyhee Country Cause Schizophrenia?

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I doubt that anything in the Owyhee air causes schizophrenia. However, based on some local history, it seems that it might have the ability to attract those with a split mind. At least, two characters of the 1800’s whom were attracted to this area were of a two world  mindset. The white world, and Indian World, both representing opposite world views. Thus, each side of the brain might have been at war with the other, in trying to make sense of the world.

One such figure was Jean Bapsiste Charbonneau,  son of John Touissant Charbonneau, and his Shoshone wife, Sacagawea. Being born of mixed blood, and having an  up-bringing which included schooling in America (via Clark, of Lewis & Clark fame) and Europe (via Prince Paul Wilhelm – Wuertmberg, Germany), all contributed to his life adventure in learning two worlds. And,  in more ways than just two.  He also left the high-minded aristocratic and institutionalized  world for a life of wild mountain man abandonment, for a while.  Then yet,  another time he accepted an appointment to be a civilian authority on rancheros to oversee Indian people. Later he was lured by   gold at the end of the rainbow in Montana, that may have his connection to the Owyhee Country.

Somewhere near Rome, where we launch our river trips of today, he may have fallen in the water, which later contributed to his catching pneumonia. You can pick between a couple of rumors  of what may have happened. One, the stage he was riding between Winnemucca and Montana, turned over in the river when crossing. Or, two, he got bucked off a horse and fell into the river, rather than the stage incident. Either way, it led to his death by pneumonia, and he was buried near Danner, Oregon (not far from the river) in May 16, 1866 at the age of 61,

The second person who may have been also afflicted by the schizophrenic Owyhee winds, was Sarah Winnemucca. Although mixed genes did not flow through her veins, having been born to full blood Paiutes, she did evolve into a blend of cultures. In fact, she was the first Indian woman to publish a book in the English language (Life Among the Paiutes: Their Wrongs and Claims.).

Born “Thoc-me-to-ny” (Shell flower) in 1844, she grew up at the  same time in history when two cultures occupied the same landscape. Thus,  she also had a foot in two different worlds. Through  academia in the white world, it  helped her become an astute diplomate for Indian policy and important activist for her own people.  Her experiences, like Charbonneau, were widely varied and rich in color.

Sarah was the daughter of Chief Winnemucca (Poito), whom she claimed was chief of all Northern Paiute. This spawned her reference to the white press of the day, as the Paiute Princess. In reality, this was a stretch, because there was no centralized leader for the Paiute, and her father was only a leader of a small band.

She was also involved with the Bannock War, scouting and carrying messages for the Army. She documented such engagements and some descriptions were quite comical, due to the fact that both side rarely shot to kill because each liked the other, so much. At the end of the Bannock War, the Paiute people she advocated for, were forced to march to the Yakima Reservation in the Washington Territory. Though, she was not forced to live there herself, due to her connections with the military, and being there only as an interpreter.

This led to her lecture tours about the plight of her people, culminating in a trip to Washington DC with her father in 1879-80, which resulted in permission to  return for the Paiutes to the Malheur Reservation closer to home.  Though, it took many years for that to actually happen.

Later she met an Indian Department employee while lecturing in California, which gravitated into marriage and another lecture tour. Eventually tuberculosis caught up to her and she died in 1887, after four years of a life retired from public involvement.

The last two interesting antidotes to accompany this rather  schizophrenic oriented story: Charbonneau appears with his mother as an image on a the commemorative silver dollar, and Princess Winnemucca  has an honorary statue of her in our nations capital.   In both cases, they are  colorful icons and an appropriate historic reminder  of a mysterious  Owyhee  desert  dichotomy.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.

Don’t Forget. Now is the time for Owyhee Trips – see previous post: How Alone Do You Want to Be?

For more river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.com

or (more pics)  Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun

800-488-9872