Exploring the Wallowas

She said…

We are in a county park in Elgin, Oregon. From here we are positioned to explore the Wallowa Valley, former home of the Joseph Band of the Nez Perce and, because of its remoteness and inaccessibility, the last place in Oregon to be settled by people from the East, with the first settlers not arriving until 1886.

Elgin is a very small town, less than 2000 people, in Union County. Its economy was based in the timber industry, and like so many places that depend on energy production and the harvesting of resources, it seems to be struggling to reestablish its identity.

We are at Hu-Na-Ha RV Park, and while this place lacks some of the beauty and isolation of our last two locations (we are so spoiled), there are some good things about this place. We are right next to the Grande Ronde River, we have beautiful tress out our front windows, the park is clean and quiet (except for our neighbor who leaves, presumably for work, at 3:30 each morning), and the price is right; with our military discount, we have full hookups for less than $20/night. They have a laundry on site with $1 washers and $1 dryers and I feel like we have gone back in time! The spaces are very close together and there are a lot of people living here, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

I came to the Wallowa Valley once in the mid-seventies, and was impressed with the remoteness and the rugged beauty. I wanted to come back here to share this place with Shannon. Yesterday we drove the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, which goes from Elgin through Wallowa, Enterprise and Joseph. We stopped in Joseph to walk the streets of this charming town and check out the museum. There is a foundry here and the whole of Main Street resembles a sculpture garden.

From Joseph we traveled to Hells Canyon Overlook.

Hells Canyon is a 10-mile (16 km) wide canyon located along the border of eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and western Idaho in the United States. It is part of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and is North America’s deepest river gorge[3] at 7,993 feet (2,436 m).[4]
The canyon was carved by the waters of the Snake River, which flows more than 1 mile (1.6 km) below the canyon’s west rim on the Oregon side and 7,400 feet (2,300 m) below the peaks of Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains range to the east. Most of the area is inaccessible by road. —Wikipedia

Snake River at bottom of Hells Canyon – Wikipedia

There are three hydro-electric dams on the Snake River in Hells Canyon. By the time we reached the bottom of the canyon, the temperature was creeping over the 100-degree mark, and we decided to visit Oxbow, the closest and the middle dam in the complex, and forgo the Hells Canyon Dam, another 30 miles downstream. The campground at Oxbow looked like the nicest one we had seen in the area, although getting to it would have been challenging.

From there our road turned toward the charming little town of Halfway, although it was never clear between what and what, and on to Richardson and Baker City, where we were in time to visit the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

These people, the early pioneers who we visited with in Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, and Guernsey, Wyoming, had finally made it to the Oregon Territory. The ones who had survived were out of resources, and were depending on the kindness of the native peoples to make it over one more mountain range to the Willamette Valley. The interpretive center was enormously interesting, and I was sorry that we couldn’t spend more time.

The last legs of our journey were on the Interstate from Baker City to LaGrande, and to close the loop, on State Hwy 82 back to Elgin. It was another long day, but a wonderful one, where we got to see more beautiful places and learn more about the history of this place and the people who lived here.


4 thoughts on “Exploring the Wallowas

    1. Hi Mark,
      I’m finding that there is interesting history almost everywhere. Glad shannon and I are both into it.

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