Our Owyhee Expedition – Fall 2020

Alzar School | 05.11.20

Over the past two weeks, Fall 2020 students have been trekking through the wild wild west of the Owyhee River Wilderness Area. On October 26th, our group of thirty students split into three pods and embarked on a two-week-long expedition into southern Idaho and southeastern Oregon. All of the groups will undertake three distinct components of their expedition.

The Black Cliffs along the Boise River. Photo courtesy of https://www.boiseclimbers.org/

In one segment, students will get the opportunity to explore the Black Cliffs of southern Idaho. Partnering with Idaho Mountain Guides, we are excited about offering this introductory course to rock climbing for our students. Dark pillars of volcanic basalt dominate the landscape of the Black Cliffs and offer a superb environment to learn the basics of rock climbing. Overlooking the Boise River, these cliffs have been used since the 1960’s as a training ground for alpinists looking for ideal basalt columns with great handholds and ascents with a range of difficulty.

Fall 2020 students tour cultural sites around Celebration State Park.

Fall 2020 students will also explore the area around the World Center for Birds of Prey and Celebration State Park. Although our COVID-10 protocols prevented us from meeting the Birds of Prey staff and resident birds kept there, students will still be able to explore this gorgeous area overlooking the Snake River canyon. Equipped with bird identification and other resources, students will engage in self-guided observation, viewing wild raptors and falcons roam over the Snake River Basin, taking archaeological tours and viewing petroglyphs in the park. While seeing some amazing birds and cultural sites, students will also learn about the factors that threaten these species and areas such as contaminates, like lead poisoning, climate change, habitat loss, human conflict and invasive species. By visiting both the Black Cliffs and the Celebration State Park area, our hope is students gain a better understanding of the geological and ecological environment of the western United States.

Students enjoy a typical Owyhee sunset.

Finally, in our longest backpacking block of the semester, students will embark on a 10-day trek through the Owyhee River Wilderness Area. Starting at Juniper Gulch, students will inevitably be challenged to navigate through spire and slot canyonlands, across braiding animal paths and up steep grassy slopes to reach water catches set by our expedition staff and find campsites with supreme sunset vistas. In an area known for its remoteness and wildness, students will encounter stanch stands of sagebrush and juniper trees, trickling springs (and hot springs) and maybe even wild herds of horses.

Fall 2020 students are currently on an adventure and Alzar School expedition like no other. One that will undoubtedly leave them with the skills and confidence to thrive in the outdoors for days on end and with the undying memories of the vast, open and wild skylines of the American West.





Juniper Gulch Trail