For more Oregon Trail history, head 18 miles west of Ontario to the small farming community of Vale. Here you'll find the Rinehart Stone House Museum, 255 Main St. S. (tel. 541/473-2070), which was built in 1872 and was a stagecoach stop and an important wayside along the route of the Oregon Trail. Today it houses a small historical museum, open from mid-May through September, Tuesday through Saturday from 12:30 to 4:30pm; admission is free. Six miles south of Vale, at Keeney Pass, you can see wagon ruts left by pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail.
South of Ontario 15 miles, you'll find Nyssa, the "Thunderegg Capital of Oregon." Rockhounding is the area's most popular pastime, and thundereggs (also known as geodes) are the prime find. These round rocks look quite plain until they are cut open to reveal the agate or crystals within. You'll find plenty of cut-and-polished thundereggs in the rock shops around town. If you'd like to do a bit of rockhounding yourself, you can head south to Succor Creek State Natural Area, a rugged canyon where you'll find a campground, picnic tables, and thundereggs waiting to be unearthed.
If you have a four-wheel-drive or high-clearance vehicle, you can continue another 30 minutes to Leslie Gulch, an even more spectacular canyon with walls of naturally sculpted sandstone. If you're lucky, you might even see bighorn sheep here. Few places in Oregon have more of the feel of the desert than these two canyons, and just as in the desert Southwest, here, too, rivers have been dammed to provide irrigation water and aquatic playgrounds. Lake Owyhee, 45 miles south of Ontario off Ore. 201, is the longest lake in Oregon and offers boating, fishing, and camping. The Owyhee River above the lake is a designated State Scenic Waterway and is popular for white-water rafting. If you're interested in running this remote stretch of river, contact Destination Wilderness (tel. 800/423-8868 or 541/585-2904; www.wildernesstrips.com) or Oregon Whitewater Adventures (tel. 800/820-RAFT ; www.oregonwhitewater.com), both of which occasionally run this river. Expect to pay $900 to $1,250 for a 5-day trip.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.