The Nature Conservancy considers the Owyhees, the high desert country located in the southwest corner of the state, to be one of its highest conservation priorities in the state. This vast, five-million-acre county contains some of the best sagebrush habitat left in the country, and is also home to a long ranching tradition. The Conservancy has been a member of the Owyhee Initiative to create solutions to land use issues in the county, and also works on a number of on-the-ground conservation projects in the Owyhees.
The Owyhees are home to a variety of unique creatures, many of which live in the sagebrush habitat. But the rivers are also home to an interesting fish: the redband trout. This trout—a subspecies of rainbow trout—can be found in a number of rivers throughout the county.
High desert redband trout can survive at higher temperatures than any other trout species. This enables them to survive when desert temperatures soar in the summer. The trout face threats from introduced smallmouth bass in some rivers, and also from declining water quality.
On a recent visit to the Owyhees, my wife and I fished for this beautiful fish. In most rivers, you will not catch large fish, but you can catch many of them. Their colors are often quite vivid. The rugged canyon scenery is spectacular, and wildlife is abundant.
Although more people are visiting the Owyhees from rapidly growing Boise and the Treasure Valley, you can still find solitude and wild landscapes to explore. The Owyhee Initiative’s goal is to protect wilderness and wild and scenic rivers in the Owyhees so future generations can continue to experience the magic of the high desert.