Owyhee County is a county in the southwestern corner of the U.S. state of Idaho. As of the 2010 census, the population was 11,526. The county seat is Murphy, and its largest city is Homedale. In area it is the second-largest county in Idaho, behind Idaho County.
Owyhee County is part of the Boise metropolitan area and contains slightly more than half of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, which extends over the Nevada border, into Elko County. The majority of the federally recognized Shoshone-Paiute Tribe that is associated with this reservation lives on the Nevada side; its tribal center is in Owyhee, Nevada.
Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed in the Owyhee Mountains about 50 miles southwest of Boise.
Location within the U.S. state of Idaho
Idaho's location within the U.S.
|Founded||December 31, 1863|
|Named for||lost Hawaiian trappers|
|• Total||7,697 sq mi (19,940 km2)|
|• Land||7,666 sq mi (19,850 km2)|
|• Water||31 sq mi (80 km2) 0.4%%|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||1.5/sq mi (0.6/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−7 (Mountain)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−6 (MDT)|
This area was the territory of Western Shoshone, Northern Paiute, and Bannock peoples and their ancestors for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Americans. Conflicts over land use and resources led to the indigenous peoples being pushed aside.
On December 31, 1863, Owyhee County became the first county organized by the Idaho Territory Legislature. While Boise, Idaho, Nez Perce, and Shoshone counties were organized under the laws of Washington Territory, they were not recognized by the Idaho Territory until February 1864. The original county seat at Ruby City was moved to nearby Silver City in 1867.
Owyhee County's original boundary was the portion of Idaho Territory south of the Snake River and west of the Rocky Mountains. Less than a month after the creation of Owyhee County, Oneida County was formed in January 1864 from the eastern portion of the county. The formation of Cassia County in 1879 took further territory in the east.
Owyhee County's history is closely linked to the mining boom that dominated Idaho Territory in the second half of the 19th century. Silver City and Ruby City developed as boom towns. At its height in the 1880s, Owyhee County was among the most populous places in Idaho. Today it is among the least populous, at 1.4 persons per square mile (0.5 per km²).
Because of pressure from miners and settlers, the federal government made a treaty in 1877 with the Western Shoshone to cede land, and established what is now known as the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in this county and across the border in Elko County, Nevada. The reservation was expanded in 1886 to accommodate people of the Northern Paiute. In the 20th century, the tribes combined and are federally recognized as a single government; the majority of the people live on the Nevada side of the reservation.
Owyhee County gained its present boundaries in 1930 after an election approved moving a portion of it near Glenns Ferry and King Hill to neighboring Elmore County. In 1934 the county seat was moved from the nearly abandoned Silver City to its present location in Murphy. In the 21st century, both Silver City and Ruby City are ghost towns, remnant of the mining boom.
The name "Owyhee" derives from an early anglicization of the Hawaiian term "Hawaiʻi." When James Cook encountered what he named the Sandwich Islands (now the Hawaiian Islands) in 1778, he found them inhabited by Native Hawaiians, whom the Anglo-Americans referred to as "Owyhees." Noted for their hardy physique and maritime skills, numerous Native Hawaiians were hired as crew members aboard European and American vessels. Many Owyhee sailed to the American Northwest coast and found employment along the Columbia River, where they joined trapping expeditions or worked at some of the fur trade posts.
In 1819, three Owyhee joined Donald Mackenzie's Snake expedition, which went out annually into the Snake country for the North West Company, a Montreal-based organization of Canadian fur traders. The three Hawaiians left the main party during the winter of 1819–20 to explore the then unknown terrain of what since has been called the Owyhee River and mountains. They disappeared and were presumed dead; no further information regarding their whereabouts has been found. In memory of these Native Hawaiians, British fur trappers started to call the region "Owyhee" and the name stuck.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 7,697 square miles (19,940 km2), of which 7,666 square miles (19,850 km2) is land and 31 square miles (80 km2) (0.4%) is water. It is the second-largest county in Idaho by area.
Nearly all of the county is high intermountain desert, with plentiful sagebrush and basalt canyons. The Owyhee Mountains in the west dominate the landscape, with Hayden Peak reaching 8,403 feet (2,561 m) above sea level. The lowest elevation is at the county's northwest corner, where the Snake River is just above 2,000 feet (610 m) at the Oregon border. The Snake forms most of the county's northern border from Oregon to just west of Glenns Ferry in Elmore County. A tributary of the Snake is the Bruneau River, which flows north from Nevada through the eastern section of the county. The Owyhee River starts in the southwestern part of the county and flows westward into Oregon; it eventually enters the Snake at the state border, south of Nyssa.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2000, there were 10,644 people, 3,710 households, and 2,756 families residing in the county. The population density was 1.4 person per square mile (0.5/km²). There were 4,452 housing units at an average density of 1 per square mile (0/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 76.87% White, 0.15% Black or African American, 3.21% Native American, 0.47% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 16.50% from other races, and 2.72% from two or more races. 23.10% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 14.3% were of American, 12.5% German, 10.4% English and 8.1% Irish ancestry.
There were 3,710 households out of which 37.80% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.20% were married couples living together, 8.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.70% were non-families. 21.80% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.50% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.85 and the average family size was 3.35.
In the county, the population was spread out with 31.90% under the age of 18, 8.50% from 18 to 24, 26.50% from 25 to 44, 20.90% from 45 to 64, and 12.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females, there were 109.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 107.60 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $28,339, and the median income for a family was $32,856. Males had a median income of $25,146 versus $20,718 for females. The per capita income for the county was $13,405. About 14.20% of families and 16.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.80% of those under age 18 and 12.10% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 11,526 people, 4,076 households, and 2,954 families residing in the county. The population density was 1.5 inhabitants per square mile (0.58/km2). There were 4,781 housing units at an average density of 0.6 per square mile (0.23/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 76.0% white, 4.3% American Indian, 0.5% Asian, 0.2% black or African American, 16.6% from other races, and 2.4% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 25.8% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 19.6% were American, 13.8% were German, 9.5% were English, and 9.4% were Irish.
Of the 4,076 households, 36.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.3% were married couples living together, 9.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 27.5% were non-families, and 23.0% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.79 and the average family size was 3.29. The median age was 36.0 years.
The median income for a household in the county was $33,441 and the median income for a family was $36,405. Males had a median income of $31,404 versus $29,167 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,373. About 18.0% of families and 22.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 33.9% of those under age 18 and 10.8% of those age 65 or over.
Battle Creek is a 67-mile (110 km) long tributary of the Owyhee River. Beginning at an elevation of 6,704 feet (2,043 m) in central Owyhee County, Idaho, it flows generally south through the Owyhee Desert to its mouth west of Riddle, at an elevation of 4,636 feet (1,413 m). In 2009, 23.4 miles (37.7 km) of the creek were designated as wild by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, which also created the Owyhee River Wilderness.Big Jacks Creek
Big Jacks Creek is a 58-mile (93 km) long tributary of Jacks Creek in Owyhee County, Idaho. Beginning at an elevation of 5,935 feet (1,809 m) north of Riddle, it flows generally north and slightly east through the arid Big Jacks Creek Wilderness, before reaching its mouth southwest of Bruneau, at an elevation of 2,779 feet (847.0 m). In 2009, 35.0 miles (56.3 km) of the creek were designated as wild by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, which also created the Big Jacks Creek Wilderness.Bruneau Dunes State Park
Bruneau Dunes State Park is a public recreation and geologic preservation area featuring large sand dunes and small lakes, located northeast of Bruneau and fifteen miles (24 km) south of Mountain Home, Idaho. The state park is the site of North America's highest single-structured sand dune which is approximately 470 feet (140 m) high. The park encompasses 4,800 acres (1,900 ha) and features the Bruneau Dunes Observatory, where visitors can use a telescope for stargazing.Bruneau River
The Bruneau River is a 153-mile-long (246 km) tributary of the Snake River, in the U.S. states of Idaho and Nevada. It runs through a narrow canyon cut into ancient lava flows in southwestern Idaho. The Bruneau Canyon, which is up to 1,200 feet (370 m) deep and 40 miles (64 km) long, features rapids and hot springs, making it a popular whitewater trip.
The Bruneau River's drainage basin is bounded by the Jarbidge Mountains to the southeast, the Owyhee Mountains and Chalk Hills to the west, and the Bruneau Plateau to the east.De Lamar, Idaho
De Lamar (also DeLamar) is a ghost town in Owyhee County, Idaho, United States. Its elevation is 5,463 ft (1,665 m), and it is approximately 6 mi (9.7 km) west of Silver City. The community lies within an area governed by the Bureau of Land Management.The community formed around the De Lamar Mine, which was established in 1888. Named for mining magnate and former sea captain Joseph Raphael De Lamar, the mine and community quickly boomed and busted, declining after 1890. Despite the community's decline, it continued to exist as a populated community for several decades; it was the location of a summer-only post office from 1917 to 1930.In 1976, the ghost town was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district. Although the district included an area of approximately 1,600 acres (650 ha), only four of the community's buildings remained in sufficient condition to qualify as contributing properties.Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge
The Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge is an important breeding area for mammals, birds, and other animals. The National Wildlife Refuge is located on land surrounding Lake Lowell, just outside Nampa, Idaho. It serves as a resting and wintering area for birds, including mallards and Canada geese, along the Pacific Flyway and was named a "Globally Important Bird Area" by the American Bird Conservancy.The refuge consists of two sections which contains open water, edge wetlands, grasslands and riparian and forest habitats. The largest portion of the refuge consists of Lake Lowell and its environs, located in Canyon County, just west of Nampa, while the second comprises the Snake River islands located in non-contiguous localities along the river in Canyon, Owyhee, Payette, and Washington counties (Idaho) and Malheur and Baker counties (Oregon).
There is a visitor's center at the Lake Lowell site, which is the hub of activity for visitors and those volunteers who donate their time and services to wildlife conservation projects.Duck Valley Indian Reservation
The Duck Valley Indian Reservation was established in the 19th century for the federally recognized Shoshone-Paiute Tribe. It is isolated in the high desert of the western United States, and lies directly on the state line, the 42nd parallel, between Idaho and Nevada.
The reservation, in the shape of a square, is almost evenly divided in land area between the two states, with the northern 50.2 percent in southern Owyhee County, Idaho and the southern 49.8 percent in northwestern Elko County, Nevada. The total land area is 450.391 square miles (1,166.5 km2). A resident population of 1,265 persons was reported in the 2000 census, more than 80 percent of whom lived on the Nevada side.
In October 2016 the Nevada Native Nations Land Act was passed to put Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service lands into trust for six federally recognized tribes in the state. The Shoshone-Paiute Tribe will have 82 acres of Forest Service land added to their reservation. Some other tribes are receiving thousands of acres of trust lands. Gaming is prohibited on the new lands.The only significant community on the reservation is Owyhee, Nevada, at an elevation of 5,400 feet (1,650 m) above sea level. Owyhee is nearly equidistant from the two nearest major cities: 98 miles (158 km) north of Elko, Nevada, the county seat of the county by that name; and 97 miles (156 km) south of Mountain Home, Idaho.Homedale, Idaho
Homedale is a city in Owyhee County, Idaho, United States. The population was 2,633 at the 2010 census. The town name was chosen by drawing names from a hat during a community picnic. Homedale is part of the Boise City–Nampa, Idaho Metropolitan Statistical Area. Was at one time the terminus of a branch of the Oregon Short Line Railroad.Jarbidge River
The Jarbidge River is a 51.8-mile-long (83.4 km), high elevation river in northern Nevada and southwest Idaho in the United States. The Jarbidge originates as two main forks in the Jarbidge Mountains of northeastern Nevada and then flows through basalt and rhyolite canyons on the high plateau of the Owyhee Desert before joining the Bruneau River.
"Jarbidge" is a name derived from the Shoshone language meaning "devil". Indians believed the nearby hills were haunted.Marsing, Idaho
Marsing is a city in Owyhee County, Idaho, United States. The population was 1,031 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Boise City–Nampa, Idaho Metropolitan Statistical Area.Murphy, Idaho
Murphy is an unincorporated village in, and county seat of, Owyhee County, Idaho, United States. It is among the smallest of county seats nationwide, with a population as of the 2010 census of 97. Murphy is part of the Boise City–Nampa, Idaho Metropolitan Statistical Area. Murphy is also located within the census-designated place bearing its name. Murphy is home to the Owyhee County Historical Museum and Library.National Register of Historic Places listings in Owyhee County, Idaho
This is a list of the National Register of Historic Places listings in Owyhee County, Idaho.
This is intended to be a complete list of the properties and districts on the National Register of Historic Places in Owyhee County, Idaho, United States. Latitude and longitude coordinates are provided for many National Register properties and districts; these locations may be seen together in a map.There are 14 properties and districts listed on the National Register in the county. More may be added; properties and districts nationwide are added to the Register weekly.
This National Park Service list is complete through NPS recent listings posted October 11, 2019.North Fork Owyhee River
The North Fork Owyhee River is a tributary, about 30 miles (48 km) long, of the Owyhee River in Malheur County, Oregon, and Owyhee County, Idaho, in the United States. It begins on the east flank of the Owyhee Mountains in Idaho and flows generally southwest to meet the main stem at Three Forks, Oregon, 161 miles (259 km) above the confluence of the larger river with the Snake River.Named tributaries of the North Fork, from source to mouth, include Noon Creek, which enters from the right; Pleasant Valley Creek, left; and Juniper Creek, right, all on the Idaho side of the border. Further downstream on the Oregon side, Squaw Creek enters from the left, Cherry Creek from the right, and the Middle Fork Owyhee River from the left before the North Fork meets the main stem at Three Forks.North Fork Owyhee Wilderness
The North Fork Owyhee Wilderness is on the high basalt plateaus of Owyhee County in southwestern Idaho in the western United States. The rivers within it offer whitewater rapids up to Class IV. The upper 20.8 miles (33.5 km) of the North Fork Owyhee River, from the Idaho–Oregon border to the upstream boundary of the wilderness, are part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Of this total, 15.1 miles (24.3 km) are classified as wild and the remaining 5.7 miles (9.2 km) are classified "recreational".Oreana, Idaho
Oreana is an unincorporated community in Owyhee County, Idaho, United States. Oreana is 13.7 miles (22.0 km) southeast of Murphy.
Our Lady, Queen of Heaven Church, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is located near Oreana.Owyhee Mountains
The Owyhee Mountains are a mountain range in Owyhee County, Idaho and Malheur County, Oregon.Mahogany Mountain and the associated volcanic craters of the Lake Owyhee volcanic field are in the Owyhee Mountains of Oregon just east of the Owyhee Reservoir on the Owyhee River.The southeastern end of the range including the old mining area west of Silver City is referred to as the Silver City Range. About 8.3 kilometres (5.2 mi) west of Silver City is the De Lamar ghost town in Jordan Creek below the mine workings on De Lamar Mountain to the south. The area was active in the late 1880s. In the 1970s mining began again with the development of open pit silver–gold mines on De Lamar Mountain.Ruby City, Idaho
Ruby City is a ghost town in Owyhee County, Idaho, United States. The town served as the original county seat of Owyhee County from 1863 to 1867. The growth of Silver City, which was founded a mile to the south in 1864, hastened Ruby City's demise. Today only remains of the cemetery mark the town's location.Sheep Creek (Bruneau River tributary)
Sheep Creek is a 63-mile (101 km) long tributary of the Bruneau River. Beginning at an elevation of 6,126 feet (1,867 m) east of Owyhee in northern Elko County, Nevada, it flows generally north into Owyhee County, Idaho and the Owyhee Desert, where it is roughly paralleled by Idaho State Highway 51. It then flows to its mouth in the Bruneau – Jarbidge Rivers Wilderness, at an elevation of 3,415 feet (1,041 m). In 2009, 25.6 miles (41.2 km) of the creek were designated as wild by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, which also created the Bruneau – Jarbidge Rivers Wilderness.Silver City, Idaho
Silver City is a ghost town in Owyhee County, Idaho, United States. At its height in the 1880s, it was a gold and silver mining town with a population of around 2,500 and approximately 75 businesses. Silver City served as county seat of Owyhee County from 1867 to 1934. Today, the town has about 70 standing buildings, all of which are privately owned. Many of the owners are third- or fourth-generation descendants of the original miners. There are a handful of small businesses, but no gas or service stations. The property is now owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
Silver City was founded in 1864 soon after silver was discovered at nearby War Eagle Mountain (elev. 8,065 ft (2,458 m)). The settlement grew quickly and was soon considered one of the major cities in Idaho Territory. The first daily newspaper and telegraph office in Idaho Territory were established in Silver City. The town was also among the first places in present-day Idaho to receive electric and telephone service.
The placer and quartz vein mines became depleted around the time Idaho became a state in 1890. Due in part to its extremely remote location, Silver City began a slow decline but was never completely abandoned. Small-scale mining continued off and on until World War II; the last mine to be operated all year round in Silver City was the "Potossi," managed by Ned Williams.
The Idaho Hotel in Silver City was restored and re-opened for tourists in 1972. It relies on the use of propane refrigerators and stoves in order to supply cold drinks and snacks or a complete meal to guests during the summer months. The rooms are fitted with indoor plumbing and furnished with antiques, making it a tourist destination.
In 1972, the townsite and its environs were listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district, the Silver City Historic District, with a total area of 10,240 acres (41.4 km2).
Places adjacent to Owyhee County, Idaho
Municipalities and communities of Owyhee County, Idaho, United States
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