Louse Canyon - South Hike

Hike Rating: Difficult
Hike Length: 4.8 miles roundtrip (variable)
Elevation Gain: 50’
Trailhead Elevation: 5,400’
Best Season: September, when waters levels are
      low and eagles have fledged from their nests
Driving Access: Any vehicle, with strong tires

Plus Points
• Massive rhyolite cliffs and outcrops, more rounded than the north hike's sheer walls
• Louse Canyon is a Wild-and-Scenic River within a BLM Wilderness Study Area
• Water is present year-round, forming isolated deep pools by late summer
• Sage grouse are seen on uplands near water pools, songbirds in streamside willows
• Golden eagle aeries (stick nests) are found in rock recesses high on canyon walls
• A place where solitude can be enjoyed in a remote desert canyon

Minus Points
• Extremely rugged hike that will test one's bushwhacking and boulder-hopping skills
• Numerous water pools to ford, so expect to have wet boots all day
• Rattlesnakes are a possibility throughout the summer, so caution is advised

Download (PDF, 469 KB): Photos of Louse Canyon - South Hike
Download (PDF, 689 KB): Topo Map for Louse Canyon - South Hike
Download (PDF, 761 KB): Road Map for Louse Canyon - South Hike

Trail Notes
Map of Louse Canyon - South Hike
The hike begins on the west side of the stream at Anderson Crossing, where there is just enough room to park one vehicle. For the first mile or so, the easiest walking is within the dry riverbed, along gravel channels between the willow thickets. At about 1.3 miles, where Massey Canyon comes in from the west, there's a huge rock tower in the middle of the canyon, with an interesting big cave on its south side. In another 0.2 miles, one comes to the first big water pool between vertical rock cliffs, which blocks passage up the canyon. The best way through is to wade along the west side of this pool, in the waist-deep shallows next to the willows and rocks. Once past this pool, one can look back to the east and see several golden eagle aeries (stick nests) in rock recesses about 200' up the vertical canyon wall.

The second mile of the hike is generally more demanding than the first mile, as deep beaver ponds frequently block the canyon and one is forced to either scramble up onto the dry hillsides to get around them or to wade through them if shallow enough. In the stretches between ponds, the easiest walking is usually in the gravel stream bed, along chutes between the willow thickets.

There is no set destination to this hike and one can walk as far as one's curiosity and stamina allow. At about the 2.4 mile point, there is a bus-sized boulder in the middle of the canyon and some shady rock benches just upstream on the east — which can make an nice lunch and hike destination. Return as you came.

Road to Trailhead
On Hwy 95, about 40 miles south of Burns Junction or 15 miles north of McDermitt, turn east onto the Jackson Creek Road. Follow this gravel road east, over the summit of the Strawberry Mountains, for about 15.3 miles to a major intersection. Turn right (southeast) and follow gravel Road 6350 for about 20 miles to Anderson Crossing at the West Little Owyhee River. With 6- or 8-ply tires in good condition, this route should be driveable by any passenger car. By September, Anderson Crossing will likely be dry, allowing one to easily drive across the riverbed to the east bank.

The Jackson Creek Road is mostly well-built and occasionally graded. However, climbing over the Strawberry Mountains, the roadbed is loose shale and is steep in some spots, so this is the slowest part of the drive. The first 8 miles of this road also passes through the area burned by the massive Long Draw Fire in July 2012, so the landscape is barren. Once over the mountains, the gravel road to Anderson Crossing is also well-built and maintained for heavy stock-hauling trucks. Even so, depending on when it was last graded, the washboards can be fearsome and travel can be slow.

Finally, the desert region east of the Strawberry Mountains is one of the most remote and least-visited in Southeast Oregon. Travelers should not leave Hwy 95 unless they are equipped with adequate gas, water and supplies, in a sturdy well-maintained vehicle with strong tires, and are prepared to assume full responsibility for themselves. There is no cell phone reception, so a satellite messenger or locator beacon is highly recommended.

Camping Options
There are no developed campgrounds anywhere in this remote desert region, so the only option is dispersed camping with one's own water, sanitation and trash removal.

For tent campers: The best dispersed camping site is probably right at the trailhead at Anderson Crossing. On the east side of the stream, just north of the road, is a wide flat parking area that is suitable for any type of camping setup. Late in the summer, there is a lot of dry grass on this flat, so be extremely careful with any campfires.

For tent trailers or small travel trailers: If your small camping trailer is rugged, has excellent tires, and is prepared for lengthy washboard roads, it's possible to haul it all the way to Anderson Crossing and camp at the trailhead. However, before driving the last half mile down to the river crossing, it's smart to walk down first and check the condition of the riverbed — as there's not much room to turn a trailer around on the west bank.

Another option, if you don't want to haul your small trailer all the way to Anderson Crossing, is to find a dispersed camp site in the desert along Road 6350 and "commute" to the Louse Canyon day hikes. There's a few side roads and pullouts enroute to Anderson Crossing that, if dry, will provide a decent campsite in the desert sagebrush.

Agency Contact: Vale BLM District, (541) 473-3144

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local federal land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 1/18/13