Jordan Valley is located in
Southeast Oregon. In contrast to the rough volcanic
lands of the High Oregon desert and snowcapped mountains
that surround Jordan Valley, the City of Jordan Valley
lies in a wide lush valley along Jordan Creek in the
heart of Owyhee country. A place settled by miners and
cattlemen in the early 1860's is now dotted with cattle
ranches. Located in the Southeast corner of Oregon, in
Malheur County, the community of Jordan Valley has an
average altitude of 4,389 feet and the main product is
beef, with grain, hay and sheep taking a lesser
importance. It is a small City of approximately 450
people, which includes local ranchers and families. Game
is plentiful, with antelope, deer, pheasant, geese,
quail, duck, chukars and sage grouse offering a variety
of hunting opportunities for the sportsman. Tourist
facilities include motels, trailer courts, restaurants,
service stations, automotive garage, and hardware store.
Accommodations at Rome are available some 30 miles south
of Jordan Valley, near the Owyhee River. The local
Schools, Post Office, Health Clinic, City Hall,
Sheriff's Office, Oregon Dept. of Transportation,
Emergency Medical Services, businesses and other
organizations comprise part of our Little City.
HOME OF THE BASQUES-
"Where smiles are wide and frowns are few, cattle are
numerous and friends are too!" -
The Spanish Basques or Euskaldunak as they call
themselves in their own language, Euskara, claim to be
the oldest unmixed race in Europe. Euskara is totally
unintelligible to the Spanish and is related in no way
to any other language. Their original home was the
Pyrenees Mountains, in Spain. Their history is an
account of repeated and determined efforts to defend the
rights and privileges (fueros) that they, as a distinct
people, have enjoyed down through the centuries. From
the 1890's through the First World War, Basques
emigrated from Spain in great numbers from their native
Pyrenees Mountains to Southeastern Oregon and adjacent
areas of Idaho and Nevada, bringing with them their
traditional games, customs and festive occasions. Pelota
(handball) is one of those games. Spanish Basque
immigrants began building a handball court or Pelota
Frontone in the spring of 1915, in Jordan Valley. It is
built of native stone, hand hewn by Basque masons who
learned their trade in Spain. It was Restored in 1997
and celebrated with a Basque Fall Festival. It is
Oregon's only Basque Handball Court in existence today.
Nearby Leslie Gulch:
Native Americans fished, hunted, and camped along the
Owyhee River in Leslie Gulch 5,000 years before
Europeans came to the area. in 1882, a cattle rancher,
Hiram E. Leslie, when working in what was then known as
Dugout Gulch, was struck by lightning; thus, the area
was renamed Leslie Gulch. The original Leslie Gulch
canyon road long served as a wagon and mail route
between Rockville and Watson. Today, the town of Watson
lies at the bottom of the Owyhee Reservoir
MEANING OF THE NAME- OWYHEE
The name, Owyhee, comes from early fur trappers. In
1819, three natives from Hawaii, part of Donald
McKenzie's fur-trapping expedition, were sent to trap a
large stream that emptied into the Snake River. When
they did not return, McKenzie investigated and found one
man murdered in camp and no sign of the others. The
stream was named in their honor. "Owyhee" is an early
spelling for the word Hawaii.
The Oregon Trail, the earliest road in the area, was
used by emigrants for over 30 years on their long trip
to the Oregon country. The part of the Trail in Owyhee
County was known as the South Alternate Route or "dry
route". The Owyhee road was shorter but much harder than
the main trail.
Gold was discovered in rich placer deposits in the
Owyhee Mountains in May, 1863. A search for the source
of the gold led to quartz ledges on War Eagle Mountain.
Before the fall of 1863, several hard rock mines were
being developed. Three towns grew to supply the miner's
Booneville, Ruby City and Silver City were the first
three settlements in the county. Only Silver City still
stands; its well-preserved buildings a silent
testimonial to the lively mining days. The beautiful
ruby silver ore and the wealth of gold taken from the
mountains made the mining district world famous.
While Ruby City was named the first county seat, its
population and businesses soon moved to a better
location two miles upstream on February 1, 1867. Silver
City was closer to most of the mining operations and had
a better winter location. In 1934, after the decline of
mining, the county government was moved to Murphy, more
central to the livestock and agricultural sections of
Three Fingers Rock is Nearby
History of Jordan Valley
In 1863, a party of prospectors with about 60 horses and
mules arrived at a stream seen theretofore by few, if
any white men. Here was a most favorable camping place,
and so it was agreed to go no further. Before unpacking
his mule, one man scooped up some loose gravel, panned
it, and obtained about 100 colors. In ten minutes, every
man was digging and panning, and in one hour, all had
good exhibits. Within 12 days, the laws of the district
were made and adopted, claims located, and the creek was
named Jordan after Michael Jordan, one member of the
party. A few years later, Jordan was scalped by the
Indians on the banks of this same stream.
1863--- Silas Skinner and two partners began work on a
road from Ruby City to points west.
1864--- Found John Baxter settled in a stone cabin on
Jordan Creek, near where the Loveland barn now stands.
Traffic to and
from the mines increased by leaps and bounds. A few more
shacks were built, and the settlement was called
1865--- During the summer, the first saddle train from
Chico, California to Ruby City, Idaho, passed through
1865--- Inskip was settled in a fortified rock house on
the Ruby Ranch, near present Danner. Here he kept a
station and sold hay, grain, tobacco, liquor and meals.
1865--- Camp Lyons was established to preserve the peace
on the line of emigration to and from Idaho. It was
located on Cow Creek, on the road to Caldwell.
1866--- J.B. Charbonneau, Sacagawea's son (of Lewis &
Clark Expedition) died near the Owyhee River and was
buried at the Inskip Ranch, now called the Ruby Ranch.
1867 to 1878--- Indian Skirmishes by roving bands of
Indians killed people, stole horses, supplies, etc. For
some time prior to 1878, the Bannocks had been raiding
the settlements and in June of 1878, they became
actively hostile and urged the Piutes to join them in
driving out the whites so as to regain their lost
territories, rights and privileges. When the Indians
decided to go on the warpath, a friendly Piute Indian,
alerted the settlers who immediately organized a group
of volunteers under the leadership of O.H. Purdy. The
volunteers left the O'Keefe place and went up South
Mountain Creek to intercept the Bannocks. They met on a
hill southeast of the McKenzie place. The volunteers
finding themselves overwhelmed by an estimated 450
Indians, decided to retreat. The Indians pursued the
whites to iron Mine Creek where an old scout succeeded
in killing the Indian leader, Buffalo Horn and his
horse. The Indians surprised and disorganized by the
loss of their chief, went back toward the Owyhee. In a
few days, three companies of soldiers from Camp
Pendleton caught up with them and returned them to their
WHERE TO GO --- WHAT TO SEE
Jordan Valley is located on U.S. Hwy. 95, between
Idaho and Nevada in Southeastern Oregon. Come and visit
Jordan Valley is the center for many fascinating side
trips, from a few miles to 25 or 35 miles distance.
Scenery of the area has been compared to places as
magnificent as the Grand Canyon.
• Succor Creek Canyon is a scenic canyon, with many
interesting rock formations. A rock hound's paradise.
• Silver City, Idaho—An abandoned mining town to
explore, with Old Hotel and homes.
• Antelope Reservoir-- Trout fishing and boating.
• Leslie Gulch-- Rock formations of rugged beauty,
ending at Owyhee Reservoir where there is good fishing
for bass and crappie.
• Owyhee Breaks-- From Mahogany Mountain – a view
comparable to Grand Canyon's beauty.
• Jordan Crater-- Active less than 2500 years ago,
explore in and around, with dead lava flows.
• Rattlesnake Caves-- A large cave abounding with
• Rome Cliffs-- Fascinating rock formations resembling
castles, at Rome, Oregon
• Owyhee River-- Excellent white water rafting and
• DeLamar Silver Mine—Located in the Owyhee Mountains,
at one time a large producer of silver and gold, and no
longer in operation.
• Big Loop Rodeo-- 20' Loop horse roping and events.
Every 3rd weekend in May – nationally acclaimed with
• Cow Lakes—Two lakes about 14 miles west of Jordan
Valley, with boat ramps and restrooms.
• Jordan Valley Pelota Frontoia-- Basque Handball Court
built in 1915, restored in 1997.
• Jean Baptiste Charbonneau's Historic Gravesite-- Son
of Sacagawea & Toussaint Charbonneau (Lewis & Clark
Expedition), buried in
Danner, some 15 miles from Jordan
• Everywhere—Petrified wood, Indian relics, agates,
crystals, etc can be found in the vicinity of Jordan
SOME HISTORIC INFORMATION COMPILED
BY JOHANNA SKINNER
SOME THROUGH PROJECTS MADE POSSIBLE BY
THE MALHEUR CO. SMALL GRANTS PROGRAM,
OREGON COUNCIL FOR THE HUMANITIES, AND
FOUR RIVERS CULTURAL CENTER & MUSEUM.