Hungry in Owyhee

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Hungry in Owyhee

Owyhee ghost

Named after the islands of Hawaii, the Owyhee Mountains in Idaho are a popular destination for hikers and travelers.  Spanning over eight thousand feet in elevation, the highest peak of the Owhyee Mountains is Hayden Peak.  The area is full of gorgeous mountains and terrain, especially the Mahogany Mountain, near volcano craters of dormant volcanoes.

(images:colvinart/flickr) Owyhee Mountains

(images:colvinart/flickr) Owyhee Mountains

The Silver City Range was once an old silver and gold mining area.  Thousands of prospectors traveled to Idaho, hoping to strike gold and get rich.  Near the mountains is De Lamar ghost town in Jordan Creek.  Once popular in the 1800s, the Owyhee Mountain area is home to some of the largest ghost towns in the United States.  Mining has begun to return to the area since the 1970s.

While some of the first explorers to the area were white fur traders who were American, Canadian, and British, the Owyhee Mountains were once an Indian camp ground and hunting ground.  Many of the Shoshone and Bannock tribes made claim to the land and used it for hunting and fishing.

When the white settlers began exploring the area, they were surprised at the many areas of the Owyhee Mountainside that the Indian tribes would not visit.  They seemed to avoid those areas and certain times of day, but the settlers could find no explanation for the odd behavior.  It wasn’t until they started noticing strange occurrences themselves did they think to finally ask.

Hearing the strange singing and voices carried echoing in the mountains, they reasoned perhaps it was the sounds of miners lost.  They had heard tales of a phantom white horse that seemed to always show up at just the right time- when cowboys or farmers were lost in the woods or found themselves in some sort of danger.  The horse was always leading a pack and those lucky enough to find it were so enchanted that they followed the horse to safety- only to turn around and find it had vanished.

(images:lawde13/flickr) Owyhee Rock Face

(images:lawde13/flickr) Owyhee Rock Face

It wasn’t until they kept finding lights at the top of the mountain peaks that they began to explore more closely.  They were always unable to explain why the lights disappeared when they finally reached the top, or the tiny footprints that were left in the snow or muddy terrain.  The Shoshone and Bannock finally filled them in on the range’s dirty little secret after children began disappearing.

According to Indian legend, cannibalistic dwarves roamed the Owyhee Mountain area.  Standing two feet tall, they had long tails that they kept wrapped around their bodies to hide their appearance.  They were strong, vicious creatures and were so strong that they could slay an elk and sling it on their back before carrying it away.  Unfortunately, elk was not their only prey.  The Shoshone and Bannock tribes had a great warning for the children of the explorers in the area.

The dwarves would lure children off from the woods and kidnap them.  Unknowing, the children would be preyed upon and eaten before anyone realized they were gone.  Climbers and hikers are less able to access the area due to damage from mining, but they do still frequent the area.  Many visit to see landmarks and gorgeous natural formations.  The ghost towns and rock formations bring people from all over the country to enjoy the area… and possibly feed the hungry monsters roaming the Owyhee.

Megan Borchert
Megan Borchert
Lover of all things unusual, Megan is a staff attorney for the state of South Dakota. When she's not stuffed in an office writing case synopses, you can find her at home with her army of Schnauzers, snuggled up with some strong wine and a good book.

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