About Owyhee County
Owyhee County occupies 7,697 square miles in the southwest corner of Idaho and is one of Idaho's least populated counties. In its early days, mining was the major industry here, and the ghost towns of Silver City and Ruby City in the Owyhee Mountains are a remnant of that period. Today agriculture is the major industry.
The Snake River forms most of Owyhee County's northern border, flowing northwest. An extensive irrigation system along the river has turned nearby parts of the desert into productive farmland. The river lies in a gorge lined by steep slopes that on the north side are capped by a layer of lava. The flat land that lies to the north of the river gorge is called the Snake River Plain. In the northwest corner of the county the river emerges from this gorge into a wide grassland where most of the population of the county lives.
The Owyhee Mountains lie near the western border of the county, reaching as high as 8,403 feet in elevation at Hayden Peak. The alpine scenery in the mountains contrasts the arid Owyhee Desert that covers most of the county.
Owyhee County was organized on December 31, 1864, being the first county organized by the Idaho Territorial Legislature. It originally included Twin Falls and Cassia Counties. The county seat was originally at Silver City, but was moved to Murphy in 1934, as Silver City dwindled to a ghost town. It is named after Hawaiian fur trappers who explored the area in 1819 and 1820, Owyhee being a misspelling of Hawaii. It is pronounced ‘O-Y-he’.
Idaho Highway 78 is the major route through Owyhee County, following the Snake River nearly its whole length ending at Marsing. Idaho Highway 51 also crosses the county southward, passing through the Owhyee Desert. U.S. Highway 95 heads north and south along the western edge of the county, passing by Marsing and Homedale. State Highway 55 and 19 connect from those two towns to points outside the county.
Visitors to the county are drawn in by recreational sites along the Snake River, especially the C.J. Strike Reservoir. Other tourist attractions include the Bruneau Dunes and the ghost towns of the Owyhee Mountains.