This was a pretty complicated offroad recovery in Oregon; it took us a few weeks to get the vehicle back, a few more weeks to gather all the video, and a few more to finally put the video and story together. Thanks for your patience. I hope you enjoy it.
Wednesday, September 27th, 2023, at 4:00 p.m. (PT), we received a request for an offroad recovery in Oregon. The requester, Mikel Allen, submitted the following information: “Owyhee River trl, West side of the river. Just past 2nd water crossing north of Birch Creek Ranch. 2006 Jeep Rubicon-light khaki metallic. Laying on the passenger side. Near river. / I’m not with the vehicle”.
We started working with Mikel, pretty much right away to find volunteers. However, since this is the most remote area in Oregon, volunteers are scarce and rarely available.
We had a sense of urgency from talking to Mikel. He was worried. His rig was left out there loaded with gear for over a week already. He was taken by Search and Rescue’s helicopter the week before. Later that week, the local Sheriff’s agency went over to the vehicle, removed a few personal items from Mikel, and handed them to him.
During the first day, a few volunteers started to discuss with Mikel in our chatroom (Lobby), trying to figure things out. Was the vehicle running? how bad it was? Who had the keys? Needed a trailer?…
By the end of the day, 9-27, Ean Barnett announced he could help on Friday. I waited until 7:20 p.m. and since nobody else was available to go with Ean, I notified Mikel and Ean that I would be driving from Portland to assist.
The first trip
The plan was to meet with Ean on Friday, 29th, at around 8 a.m. in Juntura, OR. I had about 6 hours to get to Burns, OR, where I would meet first with Mikel in the morning around 7 a.m. So I left Portland, OR, at around 10 p.m. on Thursday and drove straight until 3 a.m., where I found a rest area 15 miles before the city of Burns. I slept in there for 3 hours and met with Mikel. We drove together to Juntura and met with Ean.
From Juntura, we left at around 8:15 am, and it took us about 5 hours to get where the vehicle was. We follow the GPS of a few applications, Gaia GPS, onX offroad, and Google Maps. In some areas, the road or trail had good markings; in some, well, I felt like I was making my own road.
We had no photos of the vehicle and a very brief recount of how the vehicle was by Mikel since he was almost unconscious when the helicopter took him away.
We were going with the idea of attempting the recovery but without any idea of where exactly the vehicle was, or in what conditions. We knew we were mostly an exploratory team. Not much hope of getting the vehicle out with us on the same day.
We arrived around 2:00 p.m.; we stayed on the left side of the Owyhee River. I flew the drone a few times, and finally after about 20 minutes, we were able to find the Jeep.
The section of the trail where the Jeep was, had no trail above. The road that was there basically had been washed over time. No trees to attempt to pull the vehicle out and we were also on the wrong side of the river to attempt to reach the vehicle from the opposite side.
We walked the area with Ean. The area where the Jeep slide had a trail, wide enough for a person to walk. The rocks were very fragile, and the entire area was unstable. We couldn’t see a safe area to position our vehicles, and even less to be able to pull Mikel’s jeep, without risking getting ourselves in the same situation.
We spent about an hour studying the area, grabbed the cans of fuel and decided to return. We needed a bigger party with more time to attempt this recovery. Mikel was a bit disappointed, as we were too, but we knew from the get-go, that there was a good chance we were there only to do some scouting and take some photos and measurements for a future recovery party.
We came back, and around 8:00 p.m., I dropped Mikel back in Burns. With all the information, I came back home and uploaded all the pictures and information we learned.
I invited Casey Ladelle to help with the recovery. He reached out, but he was out of the State of Oregon for the next few weeks. Regardless, his help was very much appreciated. We spent a few hours back and forth, crossing ideas about how to approach this recovery. With all that, I put together a document for the next party to get a bit more information and share this link in our lobby. Click here to view the document.
The second trip
The second attempt was planned for Friday, October 6th. The volunteers involved were Mike Haviland, Bill Cozad, Perry Kilam and Brad. They sent us photos, video we used to put together our larger video below and these notes about their trip.
Here are the notes for this recovery with photos.
by Mike, Haviland
Using the photos and intel gathered by Al and his party, I was able to assemble a team of 4 plus the owner, Mikel, and get a plan together to go get the jeep. My buddy Brad, Perry and Bill all volunteered to go get this jeep, and I can’t thank them enough for the help. Without those guys, I wouldn’t have gotten this done. After sitting down and looking into maps of the area, I found an alternate route to the jeep from the south, going downriver, and only had to cross the river once. We used the Birch Creek Ranch (BLM Campground) as a staging area Friday night. Using the intel from Al, we knew we were in for quite the recovery, and brought all the straps we collectively owned, and also brought 2 trucks with winches.
Once we got to the Jeep on Saturday morning, around 1030am, we assessed the situation and got to work. Perry, Brad and I got to work on rigging the jeep to tip it back on its wheels, and assessing the hill to figure out where to winch it up to the trail. It was easily 200 ft away from the trucks and the end of the trail, and Mikel said he rolled 3 times on the way down the night of the accident.
We got the jeep to tip back over on its wheels pretty easily, then got to work getting it to run. First we took the spark plugs out and cranked it over till all the oil was out of the cylinders, then we were able to get the jeep to start. it smoked like crazy, as expected, but ran long enough to help us get it to the trail. Brad was able to drive the jeep along the shore of the river after bleeding the brakes.
Using a combination of the Jeeps winch, the winch on Bill’s truck, and the winch on Perrys truck, we were able to get the jeep to a spot where we could winch it up the will without too many rocks. We used one winch to stabilize and one winch to help the jeep over rocks without tipping it, as the rear shocks were broken even before the roll. We ended up rigging to a rock outcropping that was super solid, and at the right angle above the jeep to get the jeep up the last bit of the hill. Once the jeep was out, it quit running, of course, and we drug it back to camp, and eventually out to a spot where it can be recovered easily with a trailer.
We cleaned up the scene, took all the parts and trash with us, and got back to the Nampa area, dropped off Mikel at his hotel around 730pm Saturday night.
Monday Mikel rented a trailer, which I took down to the jeep and recovered it back to a shop to be worked on, since it didn’t run, and he planned to drive it back home to Western Oregon.
We want to thank all volunteers involved with this offroad recovery in Oregon. It was an amazing display of voluntarism.
If you like to receive a text message when we get a request near you, create your account here: offroadportal.org/signup
About this area known as The Owyhee River and the Birch Creek Ranch
Flowing through the remote landscapes of southeastern Oregon, the Owyhee River is a ribbon of serenity that winds its way through deep canyons, rugged cliffs, and expansive desert vistas. Renowned for its untouched beauty and pristine wilderness, the Owyhee River carves a path through the Owyhee Canyonlands, offering a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
The river, named after the indigenous Owyhee people, reveals a landscape of striking contrasts. As it meanders through the high desert, its waters are flanked by dramatic basalt formations, towering spires, and the occasional green oasis. The sheer remoteness of the Owyhee region adds to its allure, providing a sense of exploration and discovery for those willing to venture off the beaten path.
Nestled along the banks of the Owyhee River, Birch Creek Ranch stands as a testament to the harmonious coexistence between humanity and the untamed beauty of Oregon’s wilderness. The ranch was founded in 1900 and purchased by the BLM in 1988 in order to preserve the remarkable site along the wild and scenic Owyhee River.
More than a destination, Birch Creek Ranch is a sanctuary for the soul, inviting guests to unwind, recharge, and appreciate the simplicity of life in nature. The confluence of the Owyhee River’s untamed beauty and Birch Creek Ranch area and BLM sharing this natural wonder creates an experience that transcends the ordinary, leaving visitors with memories of a pristine wilderness and unchanged landscapes.