From compelling stories and legends about the region’s ancient peoples and its modern day settlers to informative field guides and travel resources, this essential Oregon reading list dives deep into the history and natural environment of southeastern Oregon. If you’re preparing for a Rogue River or Owyhee River rafting trip, you’ll surely find a few books to put on your must-read list.
Rogue River Classics
Breaking into the Backcountry | By Steve Edwards
Writer Steve Edwards shares stories from the seven months of “unparalleled solitude” he spent living at a rustic homestead along the Wild and Scenic Rogue River, as well as personal reflections on the power of wilderness to transform lives.
Illahe: The Story of Settlement in the Rogue River Canyon | By Kay Atwood
Through the words of homesteaders, miners and their descendants, Kay Atwood presents the history of white settlement in the most isolate part of Oregon’s Rogue River Canyon, starting in the 1850s. This hard-to-find book is worth looking for.
The Rogue: A River to Run | Florence Arman
This collection of stories from pioneer river runner Glen Wooldridge and his first 80 years on the Rogue River, dramatizes the lives of hermits and miners, thrill-seekers and more who braved the wild Rogue River in earlier times. Get your hands on a used copy, if you can.
Discover the Owyhee Canyonlands
Owyhee Canyonlands | By William Fox
The Owyhee Canyonlands are brought to life through a combination of beautiful photographs from outdoor photographer Mark Lisk and essays from some of the people who love this remote and rugged region most.
Owyhee Trails: The West’s Forgotten Corner | By Mike Hanley and Ellis Lucia
Through amusing stories, old photographs, and more, historian Mike Hanley and writer Ellis Lucia have pieced together a thorough history of the Owyhee region and the natives, miners and settlers who’ve called Oregon’s high desert home.
Field Guides & Travel Resources
National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest | By Peter Alden
A compact photographic guide to the wildflowers, trees, mosses, butterflies, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals of the Pacific Northwest.
Sibley Birds West: Field Guide to Birds of Western North America| By David Sibley
A compact, geographically-specific version of the Sibley Guide with range maps, glorious illustrations and expanded, extremely valuable descriptions of each bird.
Moon Oregon | By Judy Jewell
This informative book from Moon Travel Guides features detailed maps, strategic itineraries, insider travel tips and activity ideas, as well as background on the culture, history and wildlife of Oregon.
Natural History & People of the Pacific Northwest
Ancient Places: People and Landscape in the Emerging Northwest | By Jack Nisbet
The Pacific Northwest’s leading historian picks through his cabinet of literary curiosities to tell great tales about its nature and ancient peoples. Jack Nisbet’s narrative features floods, great landscapes, the Northern Lights, meteors, a giant mound of thatching ants and much more.
Myths and Legends of the Pacific Northwest | By Katharine Berry Judson
First collected in 1910, these age-old stories and photographs include revealing myths and creation narratives focused on the Pacific Northwest.
The Klamath Knot | By David Rains Wallace
The 20th Anniversary edition of David Wallace’s celebrated meditation on the natural history and mythology of the Klamath Mountains of northern California and southern Oregon.
The Restless Northwest: A Geological Story | By Hill Williams
A popular geological history of the region by a native Washingtonian and former science writer for the Seattle Times. He divides the book between ancient and Quaternary geology, explaining not only the formation of the varied terrain, but also the ongoing geologic processes giving shape to the landscape.
Rivers of Oregon | By Tim Palmer
According to Tim Palmer, rivers are the essence of Oregon. He captures them here through 140 photos and supplemental text, including essays on the nature and ecology of the rivers, as well as the commitment of locals to maintain and preserve their beloved waterways.
The Living: A Novel | By Annie Dillard
Pulitzer Prize-winning memoirist Annie Dillard tries her hand at fiction in this tale of 19th Century pioneers, adjusting to a difficult new life in the Pacific Northwest.
Winterkill: A Novel | By Craig Lesley
This highly-acclaimed novel, by a Pacific Northwest literary lion, weaves together a touching story of two father-son relationships, modern Native American life, and the spirit world.
The Complete Whitewater Rafter | By Jeff Bennett
A popular, practical guide to whitewater rafting, with information on preparing for your trip, choosing equipment, safety and rescue, the history of rafting, as well as introductions to water currents and rapid classifications.
The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest | By Timothy Egan
A wonderfully readable portrait of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle journalist Timothy Egan travels along the Columbia River in the footsteps of 1853 visionary Theodore Winthrop, focusing on the area’s history, people and natural resources.