Owyhee Herd Management Area
The Owyhee HMA is located in northwestern Elko County, approximately 90 miles northwest of Elko, Nev. The HMA is 17 miles wide, 37 miles long and encompasses 336,262 public-land acres and 2,025 acres of private land for a total of 338,287 acres.
The HMA is located in the Owyhee Desert area within the Columbia Plateau and Great Basin physiographic regions. These regions are located in the Great Basin which is one of the largest deserts in the world. It is characterized by a high rolling plateau underlain by basal flows covered with thin loess and alluvial mantel (see picture below). On many of the low hills and ridges scattered throughout the area, the soils are underlain by bedrock. The HMA is occasionally cut by deep, vertically walled canyons. Elevations range from about 5,100 feet to 5,600 feet. Precipitation ranges from 6 to 14 inches; averaging 6-9 inches annually, occurring primarily in the winter and spring with the summers being quite dry.
The Owyhee HMA is very dry with very few perennial waters. In the Dry Creek Pasture of the HMA, the only perennial water can be found at Bookkeeper Spring (located on private land) which can dry up on dry years as seen in 2010 above.
Generally evaporation potential exceeds precipitation throughout the year. The average annual temperature is 43 to 47 degrees Fahrenheit (F.).
Owyhee HMA looking west (mountains in the distance are 50+ miles away)
In the Chimney Creek Pasture of the HMA, the only perennial water can be found at Desert Range Reservoir. In the northern portion of the HMA (Star Ridge) the only perennial water is the Owyhee River in the extreme northeastern portion of the HMA. While there are few perennial waters, there are numerous stock tanks and seasonal lakes (vegetated playas) that collect seasonal water in the Owyhee HMA. These stock tanks and seasonal lakes are dependent on winter precipitation where there may be no water or little water available by the spring to summer period during some years.
In general, the vegetation consists of Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata var wyomingensis), Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda), squirreltail (Sitanion hystrix) with scattered bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudorogneria spicatum) and Indian ricegrass (Oryzopsis hymenoides).
The area is also utilized by domestic livestock and numerous wildlife species. The Owyhee HMA is bordered on the west by the Little Owyhee HMA and the Snowstorm Mountains to the southwest (both managed by the Winnemucca District BLM) and Rock Creek HMAs to the south. The Owyhee HMA also provides seasonal or year-long habitat for mule deer, pronghorn and other wildlife species.
In the northern portion of the HMA, the horses are descendants of horses turned
loose by Desert Ranch in the 1930’s, In the southern portion of the HMA, these horses are descendants of Cavalry Remounts turned loose in the early 1900’s or escaped from nearby ranches. The dominant colors are gray bay, black, brown, and roan
Other colors found are sorrel, buckskin, dun and palomino.