The Owyhee River begins in northern Nevada and flows north through the high deserts of eastern Oregon. Traveling north close to the Oregon - Idaho border, it eventually empties into the Snake River just south of Nyssa, Oregon. About 25 miles northwest of Jordan Valley, Oregon, the river abruptly turns east for several miles, makes several loops and then turns north again to flow into the Owyhee Reservoir.
On its eastern treck the river flows through what the topo maps name "the hole in the ground". It is on the eastern end of this 2000 foot deep canyon that the Morrisonite Jasper is found.
From the southeast rim of the canyon one can see Three Fingers Butte far to the northeast. Three Fingers Butte is a prominent landmark which can also be seen from western Idaho. In the other direction, the Steens Mountains can be seen on the horizon.
On both sides of the canyon, old lava flows form vast plateaus covered with grasses and sage brush. Trees are rare until the higher elevation of the Mahogany Mountains is reached to the east. Sheepshead Ridge extends north from the lava plateau and marks the east end of the canyon. East-west trending faults cut through this ridge and brecciated in the welded tuff, the elusive Morrison Ranch Jasper is found. Years ago, the only way to get to this area was to follow the river upstream to Jim Morrison’s Ranch. From here, one had to climb up out of the canyon bottom to the cliffs and rock slides where the jasper was formed.
Three Fingers Butte, about 25 miles northeast of the canyon rim
Sage-covered lava plateaus plus 3 deer
Looking over Birch Creek to the Steens Mountains on the far horizon
Now the canyon can be reached from the top by turning west off of Highway 95 twelve and a half miles from the Idaho - Oregon border onto Jordan Craters Road. This gravel road starts out well groomed and passable to any vehicle for 10 miles or so.
After that the road becomes progressively worse and 4-wheel drive is recommended. The last 3.5 miles of the 29 mile drive takes a little less than an hour to drive while the total trip from the pavement to the edge takes 2.5 to 3 hours. The road follows a gently rolling high lava plateau cut by shallow streams. To the west and south of the road is the very recent lava flow known as Jordan Craters.
The end of the road to the mine puts you on the top south eastern edge of the Owyhee River canyon where the world of flatness ends.
This mining blog relates Gene’s experiences mining the most desired jasper in the world through anecdotes and vignettes.