The Oxbow Conservation Area was the first property acquired by the Tribes in the upper John Day River Basin in 2001. The property was originally several homesteads pre-dating the 1890s and eventually was known as the DeWitt Ranch. Later the property was purchased by the Oxbow Ranch of Prairie City, and the name carried on into Tribal ownership. The 1,022-acre property has about four miles of Middle Fork John Day River, and six cold-water perennial tributaries entering river on the property. It is in the very heart of the salmon zone of the watershed, and Oxbow is a critically important habitat for steelhead, spring Chinook salmon, and Pacific lamprey. Two of the creeks, Granite Boulder and Butte Creeks, are also known for bull trout.
After more than a century of intense livestock grazing, four years of destructive dredge mining of 200 acres, and periodic timber harvests, this property is now focused on maximizing aquatic habitat for fish. A multi-year restoration effort was completed in 2016 to address the dredge-mined area. Several other tree planting, stream enhancements, and fencing projects have occurred; see Restoration for more information. Ongoing management activities include weed control, fencing management, conservation grazing program (seasonal, limited cattle grazing), outreach and education programs, and tree planting.
The conservation property is accessible to the public from Middle Fork Lane and Forest Road 4550-018 (Oxbow Service Road). The Tribes ask that all visitors obtain a daily access permit, or sign-in onsite at the information kiosks, found at each end of the Oxbow service road, for each visit. Oxbow is popular for hiking, sight-seeing, and limited deer and elk hunting. No camping or fishing is allowed on the property. Please read the regulations and regularly check kiosks or this website for additional information and news. Oxbow is surround by the Malheur National Forest, which offers additional recreational opportunities.