The paved twisting, turning roadway clings to the hillsides as it winds through the Grande Ronde Valley and over a river of the same name. Our route climbed to the summit of Wallowa Mountain, (4,693 elevation) and led us past the Joseph Canyon Overlook . (A stop here’s a must for spectacular views and a bit of Nez Perce Indian history as well.)
Our destination was Wallowa Lake, a couple miles beyond the town of Joseph, Oregon, population 967, named for Chief Joseph, leader of the Wallowa band of Pacific Northwest Nez Perce Indian Tribe.
Born in 1785 and died in 1871 (the marker is incorrect), Joseph the Elder is buried at the north end of Wallowa Lake. The burial site is next to the 62-acre day-use Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site.
Joseph is an eclectic mix of Old West and Arts Haven, and the last town before the road dead-ends at this five-mile long, one mile wide, 283-feet deep Wallowa Lake.
Joseph is home to numerous art galleries and Wallowa County’s first arts foundry.
There are many Bed and Breakfasts in town and other lodging nearby, but the only motel within its city limits was built by Walter Brennan, (1894-1974) an Academy-Award winning actor who owned a ranch in the area.
And eateries galore; especially if you want a Western-style meal (think hearty chuck wagon stick-to-your-ribs style meal.)
But our two favorites don’t have Western menus. We munch tapas and sip wine on the front deck of Calderas enjoying the mountain views. And a trip isn’t complete without a piece of home-made pie or an old-fashioned milk-shake at Mad Mary and Co. Soda Shop.
From any street in town there are spectacular views of the Wallowa Mountains.
If You Go:
There are several ways to reach Joseph and Wallowa Lake that are more mainstream than the route we took. (Our route began in Asotin, Washington just south of Lewiston on the map above – a road to small to show on this Bing map).
From Portland: It’s just over a six hour drive of 322 miles, 519 km. Oregon’s Highway 82 from Highway 395 winds through Joseph before dead-ending at Wallowa Lake.
You can link up with the Hell’s Canyon Byway (Highway 350) just a few miles from Joseph – it’s a spectacular 218-mile stretch of highway.
Hiking: The Wallowa Mountains are considered by many to be Oregon’s best hiking venue. For a sample of hikes, click here.
Accommodations/Eateries: The Chamber of Commerce website will get you here and settled in quite nicely!
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