Come... renew your spirit
Hidden away in a quiet corner of Northeast Oregon lies a small mountain town with extraordinary qualities. The first sight of Joseph, with its emerald green valley and soaring mountain backdrop, simply redefines the word spectacular.
And that's just the town. Sapphire lakes, high mountain passes, low raging rivers and massive canyons greater in depth then the one they call 'Grand' await the curious explorer. Easily discover peaceful environs of pristine quality where wild nature remains – pure, as it was when Native Americans lived here long ago.
This area is unparalleled in the wide range of habitats that can be found here- due mostly to the lack of flat ground; from mountain peaks to river bottoms, this place would be almost twice the size if you squashed it out flat- but why would you want to? Here you'll find Oregon’s largest natural wilderness: The Eagle Cap; with its 361,446 acres and 534 miles of trails, offering a lifetime of exploration and surprise.
Not to belittle the Eagle Cap, but the neighboring Hells Canyon Recreation Area at 652,488 acres is nearly as pristine as wilderness, and one you can actually drive in to. Between these two, there's something for just about every kind of outdoor lover and explorer.
But wait, there's more! The Nature Conservancy runs the 33,000 acre natural grassland called the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve; the largest intact ecosystem of its type. If you've never watched the breeze roll through this kind of landscape, well then, you don’t know just how beautiful a breeze can look.
To the east lies the Snake River in Hells Canyon, America's deepest gorge with some of the most thrilling whitewater in existence. Book a jet-boat trip and get ready for the ride of your life or for the more adventurous, take a tour in an inflatable raft or kayak. Feel the fun and magic of traveling by the power of the river alone.
The wildlife in the local area also have an unusual level of trust with their human inhabitants. Deer, which make town 'home' barely acknowledge your presence and some would move indoors given a chance. The area is a favorite with birders for its wide mix of species, including one of the largest concentrations of raptors in the U.S. Fox and skunks live and den around the borders of town and are often seen to the amusement of locals and visitors alike. In the area surrounding Joseph lay large, wild and connected habitats that support healthy populations of Elk, Mule Deer, Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep, Bears and Wolves. Wildlife thrives in these complete, functioning ecosystems, making nature watching a rewarding and enjoyable pastime.
Joseph is home to an eclectic mix of people- true cowboys mix with world-class artists to create an atmosphere that’s both traditional and progressive. This unusual fusion accents the uniqueness of each while complementing both. The late Austin Barton, one of our most iconic local artists, was first a bronc-busting cowboy.
Everywhere you'll find warm and friendly people—so don't be surprised to find yourself engaged in conversation with the locals. Locals talk, wave and are generally neighborly with anyone they see, because in small towns, given time, you'll probably see them again and even become friends. It's comforting, and infectious—you'll see.
Like a page out of an earlier time, to be here is like stepping back into a pace that more closely matches 'normal.' Travel just beyond the lightly populated settlements and the pace becomes almost timeless, limited only by the rhythms of nature. Joseph has that unique gift to raise a sense of well being, nourishing peace-starved souls. It's a place where you'll not need a vacation to recover from your vacation.
This is a destination that you have to make an effort to come to. We're kinda-not-really on the way to anywhere.
Although we do have an airport capable of landing small jets, no commercial flights come to this area; Boise is about as close as you can get and it's just a regional. The closest International Airport is Portland. From there you can schedule a commuter flight to Lewiston or Pendleton where you can rent a car for the final leg of the journey.
The Wallowa Lake Highway (Hwy 82) originates in LaGrande, Oregon and dead-ends at the trailhead about a mile south of Wallowa Lake. Joseph is about 7 miles before the end of that 70 mile long road. It services traffic coming from Portland or Boise.
The North Highway (Hwy 3) travels through the Rattlesnake Grade (winding) north to the towns of Lewiston/Clarkston.
Travel times from Portland is about 5.5 hours, Boise is 4 and Lewiston is 2.5 hours.
While we might be at the end of major roads, that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of other great roads to explore this magnificent area, including the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway.