“Go back in time! Explore Watson and have a soak, too.
— Joseph States
This trail is seasonal due to Owyhee Reservoir water levels but some years it may remain passable all year if drought conditions exist. Parts of this trail are under water when the Owyhee Reservoir is full.
Starting in Blue Canyon this ancient road heads to the river and actually stays at the high water mark as it traces along the bottom of the cliffs before climbing up and out just before Juniper Creek. As you begin your climb, keep an eye out for several Indian Petroglyphs in the area! Maintain the high ground until you get to Juniper Creek and must drop into the reservoir to cross over to Watson Oregon Cemetery to pay your respects to the pioneers.
From the cemetery, you'll drop once again into the reservoir just in time to see the remains of an old steel-wheeled tractor! Continue east on the flats just below the high water level. The trail hugs the canyon wall at times and the river at other times. As you cross a large flat deposit headed for a hill climb, look to the left for a spring just down river 200 yards from where the trail climbs the bank. That spring is the very remote, very elusive, Watson Hot Springs!
Watson Hot Springs is best accessed from the trail just above it and can be a welcome side trip. Whether you choose to just soak your feet or go full monty, there is no one for miles to see or care. Due to the spring not getting much use, you may need to flush it and scoop the algae out. If you are lucky, the last person to use it was considerate enough to drain it and save you the hassle. When you are done, think of the next person and drain the soaking pool to make it easy for the next visitor. If by some freak coincidence, there are actually people already using the spring, please be polite and let them have their space.
After a well-deserved soak, or not, ride down the east side and into the reservoir again for some more flat silt deposit riding with occasional hops up on the shore line. Watch for various Watson remains as you go. There are several old foundations left to examine that have survived a bit better than the houses that lifted off and floated away. Just before the trail crawls up and into the mouth of School House Gulch
, you actually go through an old ruin.
At School House Gulch
you have options for primitive camping before choosing to continue on to Leslie Gulch or heading up School House Gulch
From School House Gulch
the trail drops back into the reservoir and runs on flats the rest of the way with only one short shore hop before climbing up to meet the boat ramp at Leslie Gulch.