Monday, March 12, 2018

Where Exactly is the Inland Northwest?

Joseph, Oregon at the base of  Oregon's Wallowa Mountains
Is Joseph, Oregon, in the Inland Northwest?

After being told for years that eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and northwestern Montana, comprise the Inland Northwest, we were interested to discover that Baker City, Oregon, is also included within that distinctive region, according to a travel brochure from the area.

But people involved in a Wiki discussion about the Inland Northwest's borders are convinced it is limited to eastern Washington and northern Idaho. They are irritated by the proposition that parts of  Oregon and Montana are included. They are also wondering if "Inland Empire,"  and Inland Northwest are the same thing.

 What is the Inland Empire?

The Merriam-Webster Geographical Dictionary (published in 1949, 1972, and 2001) says the Inland Empire covers Eastern Washington, northern Idaho, northeastern Oregon, and far-western Montana.

A railroad trestle spans mountain tops in northern Idaho, an area through which people walked until trains between Chicago and Tacoma connected it with the outside world.
A book called Library of Congress Subject Headings includes an entry that says:

"Inland Empire (Pacific Northwest). Here are entered works about the Northwestern United States between the Cascade Range and Rocky Mountains, comprising eastern Washington, northeastern Oregon, northern Idaho and extreme western Montana." 

Spokane: the Hub of an Empire, backed up by the State of Washington and the Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation, says that the Inland Northwest and Inland Empire are the same place: "Spokane is the commercial hub of the interstate area known formerly as the “Inland Empire” and now as the Inland Northwest.”

Historical photo of Spokane and Inland Empire Railroad in downtown Spokane, Washington, USA in 1912, from the collection of The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, WA
In the old days, the word "empire" defined a promising region that rich people were investing in, where, opportunities were rampant, and one could get lucky if he or she ended up in the right place as the right time. Nowadays the idea of empire has fallen out of favor, being commonly associated with unbridled exploitation of land and people by an elite few. Nowadays, "Inland Northwest" is a more soothing term.

Spokane began to emerge as the center of the Inland Empire in the late 1880s, when the discovery of gold in north Idaho caused it to boom. Many fortune hunters from around the nation acquired their grub stakes in Spokane and used it as a jumping off point to the remote mountain mining areas.

The "Inland Empire" name memorializes the railroad tycoon Jim Hill, who was widely known as the "Empire Builder, for his role in developing rail access to the resource-rich Northwest.

Farms and mountains of the Inland Northwest attracted homesteaders and speculators who sought rich lands like this field near Sanders, Idaho, between Coeur d'Alene and Joseph, Oregon
Spokane grew as a commercial and financial hub where railroads converged, and from which eager entrepreneurs and settlers traded and fanned out to the surrounding mines, fields, and forests. Today, the city serves the commercial, manufacturing, transportation, medical, shopping, and entertainment needs of an 80,000 square mile region.

Former Secretary of the Spokane Chamber of Commerce, John R. Reavis, opined about the city's sphere of influence in his 1891 Annual Report:

"By reason of her geographical position and railroad connections Spokane is fitted as no other city is, or ever can be, to be the distributing center of all that country within a radius of 150 miles, and in some instances territory much farther away. (Pacific Northwest Collections, University of Washington Libraries. Spokane, Washington: W. D. Knight. pp. 6–7, 10–12.)

Spokane Washington's service area in 1891
Towns near the edge of Reavis's 150 mile radius are: Wenatchee and Winthrop to the west at the base of the Cascade Mountains; and Whitefish, Montana, at the base of the Rocky Mountains to the east. By Reavis' parameters, "The Empire" included Walla Walla, Washington, to the south, and Lewiston/Clarkston in Idaho, (only 87 miles south of Spokane) where the Snake and Clark Fork rivers converge, and which some argue is the southern terminus of the Inland Northwest. Note the 150 mile radius encompasses Joseph on the south and also extends into Canada.

 Enter Baker, "Queen City of the Inland Empire”

Did Reavis's "much farther away" comment include Baker City, Oregon? In 1900, Baker City, boasted a population larger than Spokane, which is 200 miles north as the crow flies.

Baker City, Oregon
Baker City prospered due to a profusion of gold strikes and it promoted itself as the “Queen City of the Inland Empire,” according to The Oregon Encyclopedia, a project of the Oregon Historical Society.

So, According to historical authorities, the Inland Empire and Inland Northwest are one and the same, and the area reaches from the Canadian border, south as far south as Baker City, Oregon. Apparently, the cities of Wallowa County, in Oregon's northeastern corner lie within the sphere of the Inland Northwest.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Stringdusters Return to the OK

The Infamous Stringdusters return to the OK Theatre in Enterprise March 4, as part of their six-month national tour that started Jan. 19th in Graham, NC.

The performance in Enterprise kicks off the OK Theater's 2018 concert series. Can you believe it? Six years have come and gone since the band's last sold out performance on the OK Theatre stage!

Find out more about this amazing bluegrass fusion band and get tickets ($30) online at Eventbrite.

The show is Sunday, March 4, 2018
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Doors open 6 PM

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Winter Birding in the Wallowas

The Wallowa Mountains provide habitat for some of Oregon's most unique birds, according to naturalist Stephen Shunk, who owns Paradise Birding in Sisters, Oregon, which leads birding tours around the world, including the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon. 

Birders on their backs watching birds
Photo courtesy of Steven Shunk, Paradise Birding of Sisters OR

 The formidable barrier of the Wallowa Mountains

"The forbidding arctic winter drives countless northern breeding birds southward to spend the season in milder climes. Dozens of songbird and raptor species make their way south until they reach winter foraging grounds just across the Canadian border. Those that migrate west of the Rockies run into a formidable barrier in Northeastern Oregon. Here they gather in large concentrations to overwinter in the shadow of the Wallowa Mountains," according to Stephen.

Joseph, Oregon, at the foot of the towering Wallowa Mountains

Unique species

A few species that breed in the Wallowas, such as the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, make their way down the north-facing slopes each winter. The gray-crowned rosy-finches (L. t. tephrocotis) were confirmed as a "distinct race" in the 1930s, when a party from the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology obtained19 breeding pairs from two alpine localities on the Eagle Cap and Elkhorn Peaks at the headwaters of the Lostine River.

Audobon of Portland confirms that the Wallowa Mountains comprise the entire breeding range of the Wallowa Rosy Finch, a subspecies of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, and notes additionally that it is the only area in the state with regular confirmed breeding of Pine Grosbeak.

Winter bird varieties

Bohemian Waxwing in the Wallowa Mountains
Steven Shunk photo
Stephen gives an overview of other birds that can be seen in the Wallowa area during winter:

"The huge flocks of rosy-finches may join dozens or even hundreds of Snow Buntings to forage on the rolling, snow-covered prairie north of the mountains. Occasionally, Lapland Longspur joins large wintering flocks of Horned Larks, and Northern Shrike patrols the region for easy forage.

"Each winter, hundreds of Bohemian Waxwings gorge on mountain-ash and juniper fruits in the Wallowa Valley. Nearly every gully in the nearby prairieis filled with small flocks of American Tree Sparrows. In some years, Common Redpolls swarm the birch and alder trees by the dozens.

Steven Shunk photo
 "Searching for tree sparrows and redpolls along the prairie back-roads typically yields resident coveys of Gray Partridge, and possibly a glimpse of Oregon’s only wild population of Sharp-
tailed Grouse.

"Pileated Woodpecker inhabits the forest that meets the grasslands from the north. Rough-legged Hawk and Bald Eagle exhibit a commanding presence throughout the region, highlighting dozens of  wintering raptors.

"In some years, a Snowy Owl or Gyrfalcon spends the winter in Wallowa County. And all of this occurs surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery in North America."

Wallowa Winter Bird Guide

Mt. View Motel & RV Park guests with an interest in birding can inquire at the motel office for a copy of the list of birds identified during Stephen's Wallowa County winter bird tours during seven years between 2003 and 2014. Motel owner Scott is a birder who is happy to share his love of birds and his own birding trip experiences.

Next Wallowa Winter Birding Tour

Paradise Birding's next Wallowa Birding tour is scheduled for Feb 2019. Contact Stephen Shunk for more information at 541-408-1753 or

Stephen founded Paradise Birding in 1997. He has led tours to birding hot spots around the world, including the Wallowas, and at annual Oregon birding festivals: The Harney County Migratory Bird Festival, which celebrates the large annual migration of birds that pass through Harney Basin on the Pacific Flyway in April, and the Silver Falls Mother's Day Birding & Wildflower Festival.

Stephen co-founded the East Cascades Bird Conservancy, which is now the East Cascades Audubon Society chapter. He is also co-founder of the Oregon Birding Trails program and coordinated its flagship project, the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail.  

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tunesmith Starts at the Jennings

Two Oregon duos, Wanderlodge and Jezebel's Mother, will open the 2017 Tunesmith Night series with original live music in the Gold Room at the Jennings Hotel in Joseph, Oregon, Oct 14, starting at 7 p.m.

Admission is $10 at the door or by season pass. Doors open 6pm, music at 7pm, all ages welcome. No food or beverage service provided, so BYO.

Tunesmith Night is a showcase of original music played monthly at local venues during the fall and winter. Songs are performed in a round-robin format with each musician playing a song, then the next one taking a turn.

Tunesmith Night is organized by the Wallowa Valley Music Alliance.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Oregon's Alpinefest in the Mountains

Experience the fun of Swiss-Bavarian Alpine culture against the breathtaking backdrop of northeast Oregon's Wallowa Mountains, a.k.a. Little Switzerland, Sept 27 to Oct 1, with four days of accordions, polkas, lederhosen, alpenhorns, bratwurst, bier trinken, and of course, yodeling at Oregon's Alpenfest 2017.

Heidi the Movie

Not feeling Bavarian yet? Get in the Alpenfest mood at the OK Theater in Enterprise, OR, Wednesday, Sept 27, with the new version of "Heidi." Doors open 5:30 p.m., film at 6. $5 adults and teens, $1 kids unless dressed in costume, then free admission.

Oregon Alpenfest Schedule

Opening Ceremony in Enterprise

Don the dirndles and lederhosen on Thursday for the procession and opening ceremony of Oregon Alpenfest downtown Enterprise at 4 pm. Then head to Terminal Gravity for the official tapping of the first keg of Alpenfest Beer, with more accordians and yodeling, which becomes increasingly more fun as greater quantities of beer are consumed.

Art, Music and Dance at Edewlweiss Inn

Alpen festivities move to the Edelweiss Inn at Wallowa Lake on Friday, where the Alpine Art Fair, polka lessons, Tirolean dancers, music, and of course, more yodeling start at noon.

Frühstück und Schwingen

An Alpine breakfast is available at the Alpine Inn at Wallowa Lake, Saturday morning, starting at 8 a.m. Don't miss the demonstration of Swiss folk wrestling (Schwingen) at 11:30 a.m.

 The Main Event

The Alpenshow at Edelweiss Inn runs from 1 to 11 pm with much beer drinking, dancing, yodeling, and free waltz lessons at 5 p.m.

Accordions all Day 

Meanwhile, the sound of accordions will fill the air in downtown Joseph through the day between 10 am and 2 pm at the Wallowa County Farmers Market and Joseph Visitor Center.

 Military, Law Enforcement & Firefighters Free Day

The Sunday line-up at Edelweiss Inn is more of the same with free admission on Patriot's Day for military service members and veterans, law enforcement officers, and firefighters.

Contact Oregon's Alpenfest at or 541-398-1096

Film: Massacre at Hell's Canyon

The film “Massacre At Hells Canyon”, will be shown Tuesday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m at The
Josephy Center. Suggested donation is $5.

The documentary recounts the brutal murder of Chinese miners along the Snake River, about 40 miles east of Joseph, OR, as the crow flies.

In 1886, more than thirty Chinese gold miners, operating under the auspices of the Sam Yup Company of San Francisco, acquired grubstakes at Lewiston, Idaho, and headed up the river. They hauled their supplies upstream for 65 miles along rough and rocky banks, maneuvering their boats through some of the most rugged and isolated terrain in the West. They struggled past the mouth of the Imnaha River to Dry Creek and set up camp near a traditional Nez Perce Indian crossing. There they proceeded to extract fine gold "flour" from debris left behind by less patient and
thorough miners. Historical rumors estimate they had accumulated around $5,000 of gold dust when they were all shot and mutilated by a gang of ruffians holed up nearby. 

Antagonism toward the Chinese was high on the frontier at the time, as it was for any people with strange traditions, darker skin, or Mongolian features, especially if they threatened ones desired quality of life in any way, like controlling valuable resources or working harder, smarter, or cheaper than everyone else.

The massacre was briefly tried in a local court, where a Wallowa County jury found the perpetrators not guilty. After that it seemed best not to dwell on the gory matter and it never made the history books. The details are still sketchy, although some of the trial records that had disappeared surfaced in 1995, buried under other papers in an old safe being donated to the local museum.

Former Wallowa County Commissioner Ben Boswell, whose family settled in the area in 1872, has been quoted as saying that: "Somebody intentionally tried to keep this story from happening. Somebody intentionally caused people to forget."

Efforts of several researchers over the past few decades have stimulated interest in preserving the story of the victims and memorializing their plight.

(Read for a recounting of the story and the social climate of the day.)

What was obvious at the time, was that by July of 1887, the mutilated bodies of Chinese miners were washing up along the Snake River about 65 miles downstream in Idaho Territory, so at least the motions of an investigation were required.

One of the suspects, Frank E. Vaughan, turned state's evidence and his testimony led to the arrest of three suspects, including15-year old Robert McMillan. They were all acquitted. Another three fled and were never tried. A relative of Vaughn later opined that "he was guilty as sin." 

Three years after the trial, young McMillan, who had downplayed the events in court, was dying of diptheria in Walla Walla, Washington, with a guilty conscience. He made a deathbed confession that he witnessed 13 of the Chinese gunned down at Deep Creek the first day. He was not present the second day, but had heard the boasting about how 21 more were killed.

The incident was officially acknowledged in 2005 and the site of the crime was renamed Chinese Massacre Cove. In 2012 a small monument was delivered there by helicopter and a ceremony ensued. Located within the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, the best way to see the memorial is to travel up the river by boat from Lewiston.

Find The Josephy Center at 403 Main St. in Joseph, OR, 541-432-0505.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Seven Fantastic Day Hikes Near Joseph, Oregon

The Wallowa Mountains have 25 trailheads that lead into the National Forest and Eagle Cap Wilderness, and more than 500 miles of trails for people of all abilities. Here are seven convenient hiking places near the Mountain View Motel & RV Park for people who don't want to go for a strenuous backpacking trip, but prefer a day hike on these beautiful and varied trails.

Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site

The 62-acre Iwetemlaykin site marks the beginning of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail. The short trails here lead through a grassland to a wooded area and pond. Turn left at the pond and walk to the end of the trail to reach the Old Chief Joseph Grave Site.  

Getting There: The heritage site is 2.8 miles from the Mountain View Motel & RV Park. Turn right (south) onto Hwy 82 and drive through Joseph. The road Bear left at the south end of town to stay on this becomes OR-351, otherwise known as the Wallowa Lake Highway. Watch for the parking area on your right. If you reach the Old Chief Joseph Gravesite you've gone too far.
Devil's Gulch
Though it has been described as a "relatively unremarkable" trail compared to the stunning mountain vistas and tumbling waterfalls on the nearby Wallowa forest trails, this lightly used path on the 3500 acre Nature Conservancy's Clear Lake Ridge Preserve is a good hike in late winter and early spring because it is warmer and drier than much of the surrounding area. Acceptable for hikers of all skill levels, the follows and occasionally crosses the mostly-dry creek bed, with water in some places that goes underground in others. You may have to cross on a few rocks to keep your feet dry. The trail leads through some sagebrush terrain and undergrowth to an abandoned bunkhouse next to a spring and areas of Ponderosa pine. There are numerous side gulches and ridges for exploring. Keep your eyes open for bears, deer, and elk. Wear long sleeves and pants to protect against a few thorny bushes along the way.
Getting There: From Mountain View Motel & RV Park go right (south) on Hwy 82 into Joseph (1.8 mile). Turn left onto E. Wallowa Ave, (see sign to Halfway and Imnaha) and drive approximately 21 miles east on the Little Sheep Creek Highway. After you pass the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest sign, pull over at the next tributary and park on the south side of the road. If you pass a fish hatchery located .5 mile further, you’ll know you have missed the preserve entrance. Cross the footbridge over the creek just east of the preserve signs. Go through the pole fence and hike up the canyon.
Hurricane Creek Trail

The Hurricane Creek Trail leads into the Eagle Cap Wilderness and features stunning scenery and mountain vistas within a short walk of the trailhead. The lower parts of the trail are snow free before other portions of the Wallowa Mountain trail system. A couple hundred yards beyond the trailhead, turn right onto the Falls Creek trail for an easy quarter mile side trip to see Fall Creek crashing down from Lake Legore, the highest lake in Oregon at 8,960 feet.

Back on the main trail, about a tenth of a mile later, you will have to ford Falls Creek, which may not want to do during periods of high water. Three quarters of a mile up this trail is an area of knocked down trees, the result of an avalanche. The Eagle Cap Wilderness sign is in the middle of this area. At 1.5 miles, the trail crosses Deadman Creek. If you brought binoculars, look for mountain goats and bighorn sheep in the higher parts of the Deadman Creek drainage. This trail continues past more waterfalls and stream crossings to some good dispersed campsites about 5.5 miles in. Some people walk all the way to the Lakes Basin about 12 miles, but the trail is mostly used as a 6.5 mile day hike to Slick Rock Creek.

Getting There: From the Mountain View Motel & RV Park, turn right (south) onto the Joseph Hwy. (Hwy 82) and drive into town 1.8 miles. Turn right (west) on W. Wallowa Ave., which turns into Airport Lane, also known as Hurricane Creek Road. Continue on this for another 0.5 miles to the white Hurricane Creek Grange and turn left onto County Road 521 (becomes Forest Road 8205). This is shown as Hurricane Creek road on Google Maps. Drive about 3.7 miles to the trailhead. The road becomes narrow with turnouts and is not recommended for RVs. To park at the trailhead you either need to pay $5/day or display a recreation pass. Additionally, if hiking into the  Eagle Cap Wilderness your party will need a free WildernessVisitor Permit. Registration and permit boxes are located at the trailhead near the information board.

Chief Joseph Trail

Start at the Wallowa Lake Trailhead at the south end of Wallowa Lake and follow the sign to Chief Joseph Trail. The first .3 miles is shared with the West Fork Wallowa River Trail. At .3 mile stay right to get onto the Chief Joseph Trail, then bear left. (Check out the trail to the extreme right to see dramatic views of the Wallowa River crashing below). Two tenths of a mile later there is a bridge, after which the Chief Joseph Trail climbs some switchbacks. Nearly a mile later there is a good view of Wallowa Lake. BC Creek is at the end of that mile with a fantastic waterfall. Most people stop at this 1.5-mile mark because of the dangerous creek crossing. Experienced hikers can continue on this trail to the summit of 10,000-foot Chief Joseph Mountain.

Getting There: Turn right (south) onto Hwy 82 from the Mountain View Motel & RV Park and drive through Joseph. Bear left as the road turns into OR-351, otherwise known as the Wallowa Lake Highway. Go seven miles to the end of the road. See the entrance to the trails on your left. Recreation passes are not required at the Wallowa Lake Trailheads, but make sure to get a free Wilderness Pass if you plan to head into the Eagle Cap.
West Fork Wallowa River Trail
Start at the Wallowa Lake trailhead and take the same trail as above, then take the trail on your left at the .3-mile junction to explore the West Fork Wallowa River Trail. There is a bit of a climb after the junction for 300 yards, then it changes to a gentler walk as you pass the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and Eagle Cap Wilderness signs. In the next mile of travel you will find the Refrigerator, a large, ancient rock slide that carries gusts of cold air across the trail. There is an avalanche area at 1.25 miles, then the trail climbs gently and crosses a bridge at the two-mile mark. If you continue on, you will see many more sites on the way to Six Mile Meadow and beyond to the popular Lakes Basin.
Getting There: Turn right (south) onto Hwy 82 from the Mountain View Motel & RV Park and drive through Joseph. Bear left as the road turns into OR-351, otherwise known as the Wallowa Lake Highway. Go seven miles to the end of the road. See the entrance to the trails on your left. Recreation passes are not required at Wallowa Lake Trailheads, but make sure to get a free Wilderness Pass if you plan to head into the Eagle Cap.

McCully Trailhead

The McCully Trailhead provides access to McCully Creek Trail #1812, situated in a warmer open ponderosa pine forest with some great views of the Wallowa Valley.

Getting There: From the Mountain View Motel & RV Park, turn right (south) onto Oregon State 82 into downtown Joseph. After 1.8 mi, turn left on Oregon State 350 for 5.3 miles then turn right onto Tucker Down Road (to Ferguson Ski Area), which is also County Rd. 633. Drive 3 miles and the road becomes Forest Road 3920; Continue on Forest Road 3920 for about 1.3 miles to the fork. Take the right fork and continue 0.5 miles to the trailhead entrance on your right.

High Wallowa Loop National Recreation Trail
Take the Wallowa Lake Tramway up to the summit of 8,241-foot Mount Howard for a thrilling shortcut to this National Recreation Area. Bring a picnic or dine at the Summit Grill and hike the two miles of nature trails with interpretive signs and breathtaking vistas. The tram operates weekends in late May then daily June through October. The ride costs $33 per person with discounts for seniors, students, and children.
Getting There: Turn right (south) onto Hwy 82 from the Mountain View Motel & RV Park and drive through Joseph. Bear left as the road turns into OR-351, otherwise known as the Wallowa Lake Highway. It's about six more miles to the tramway at 59919 Wallowa Lake Highway.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Joseph Oregon is the Perfect Place for Quilt Lovers

If you love and appreciate quilts, you will feel right at home at the Mountain View Motel & RV Park where most of the log framed beds are covered with quilts.

25th Annual Wallowa Mountain Quilters Guild Show Coming Up

To further feed your quilt passion, Joseph's annual quilt show takes place on June 9 and 10, the same weekend as the Oregon Mountain Cruise car show (June 10). We have found that our guests appreciate the scheduling of both on the same weekend for couples where the women don't want to look at cars all day and men don't care to admire quilts for hours.

The theme for this year’s 25th Annual Wallowa Mountain Quilters Guild Show will be The Oregon Trail, with more than 150 quilts for you to feast your eyes on at the Joseph Charter School at 400 East Williams Avenue, Joseph, Oregon. Yes, it is possible to purchase handmade quilts the show.

Hours are Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for adults; children 12 and under free.

See Wallowa Mountain Quilters' Guild for info on the show, and if you have quilts to share or sell, get the online entry form in by May 25.

The Wallowa Mountain Quilters' Guild was formed in 1991 by a small group of local quilt enthusiasts. Their mission is to promote and preserve the ancient art of quilting, share information about modern quilting methods, and provide venues for quilters to learn from each other and display their quilting accomplishments.

Getting There: Joseph Charter School is 2.4 miles from the Mountain View Motel & RV Park. Go right (south) toward Joseph on Hwy-82. Drive through downtown Joseph and turn left on E. Walker Ave. Turn right at the 3rd cross street onto N. East St., then left onto E. Williams Ave. Bear left again to stay on E. Williams and drive to the school.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Wildest Race on Earth in Enterprise OR

Wild Horse Race. Photo by Angelica Ursula Dietrick, by permission of Mountain High Broncs & Bulls
See one of the wildest races on earth at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds in Enterprise, Oregon, during the 14th Annual Mountain High Broncs & Bulls Rodeo coming up June 17. Wild Horse Racing is on the schedule with more familiar rodeo events like mutton busting, and bronc and bull riding. Wild Horse Racing has its roots back in the old cowboy days, when wild horses had to be captured and trained from herds that roamed the open range.
Teams of three men work together to subdue a horse so it can be saddled and ridden to the finish line. When the horses come out of the chutes, the shankman of each team holds the horse in a position that allows the mugger to move up the shank and grab the horse by the halter. The rider then sets the saddle on the horse, cinches it, mounts, and rides to the finish line. The process usually takes 30 to 40 seconds in arena races, but for some teams it may take the entire two-minute time limit.

The Wild Horse Race was a common part of early day rodeos, when ranch hands would team up to compete against other ranches. The event dwindled to a handful of local races by the late Sixties and it looked like wild horse racing might die out as a rodeo event. But in the early Seventies a group of cowboys at Cheyenne Frontier Days organized to revive the sport. The category was officially reborn in 1981, when the Professional Wild Horse Racers held their first National Finals at the NILE Indoor Arena in Billings, Montana. Today the Professional Wild Horse Racing Association has a well-staffed office in Madras, Oregon.

Getting to the Rodeo: The Wallowa County Fairgrounds at 668 NW 1st St. is an 8-minute drive from Mountain View Motel & RV Park. Follow OR-82 north and west through Enterprise. Turn north on (right) NW 1st St. for .3 mile and see fairgrounds on your left.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Live in the Past for a Day in Flora, Oregon

If you're visiting Wallowa County during the first weekend of June, head to Flora, Oregon, to honor the days of old with a Dutch oven lunch and pioneer skill demonstrations, at the annual Flora School Day, June 3, from 10 am to 4 pm.

A volunteer from Spokane demonstrates spinning in the Flora School library. Photo: Flora School Education Center
Traditional Skills Demonstrations

Volunteers from near and far will share practical skills like blacksmithing, rope making, wagon wheel building, spinning, weaving, and basket making. Activities include the annual pie social, games for kids and adults, and candle making for children. You may catch a whiff of bread baking for lunch in the wood-fired oven, or the sound of the butter churn cranking. Buy something at the Country Store to help the non-profit Flora School Education Center restore the old Flora School and continue sharing the skills of northeastern Oregon's ancestors. Admission is free, lunch is $10/plate.

Education on the Frontier

Flora School District #32 was formed in 1891 with a one room log schoolhouse at Buzzard's Corner in the platted Town of Flora. A good education was a significant achievement on the frontier. Teachers often had only weeks, not months, to impart the basics, especially for boys, whose help was needed on family farms and ranches. In northern Wallowa County, the boys helped harvest wheat, barley, and hay, and were also expected to assist with lambing and calving. Logging families moved often from camp to camp so the children's school time was spotty. When children did attend school, they walked or rode their horses, so weather was always a factor. Nevertheless, the one room schoolhouse at Buzzard's Corner soon filled up and a larger one was built in 1900. A six month school year was instituted at that time.

Flora was a Bustling Frontier Town

Flora was a bustling western frontier outpost that served farmers and loggers. It had three shingle mills, a flour mill, hotel, bank, doctor and dentist offices, churches, Grange, a newspaper owned for many years by a woman, a photography studio, three blacksmiths and other craftsmen's shops. (Electricity finally reached the town around 1958). 

Center of Education in Northern Wallowa County

Continuing growth of the district justified construction of Flora's third school in 1915. It became the center of education and activity in northern Wallowa County. The two-story structure was built in the traditional Craftsman style and it was positioned to make the most of natural light that poured into its large windows.

At it's high point, there were eight teachers and 100 students at the school. Heat was provided by a wood and coal furnace in the basement, and a wooden boardwalk led to outdoor privies behind the building. Water was piped in from offsite and stored in a tank behind the school. 

Rural Population Declines

Flora's population and school enrolment dwindled as better roads, urban opportunities, and world wars drew people away from the rural communities of Wallowa County. Flora's high school was the smallest in Oregon with only twelve students when it closed in 1962. The elementary school held out until 1975 and only one student remained, sixth grader Ben Curry.  At that time, high school students were already traveling to Enterprise and Flora's elementary children had the option of attending the one room school 15 miles away in Troy, or bussing to Enterprise. (The one room school in Troy still serves four students).

Flora School a Historical Beacon

Nowadays the Flora School remains as the most prominent feature of pastoral Flora, which consists of a scattering of old houses and outbuildings, some vacant and some remodeled. Although people still live in Flora, Google and others refer to the community as a ghost town. The Flora School was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

Getting There

Flora, Oregon, is situated between Lewiston and Joseph, Oregon, at the headwaters of West Bear Creek, three miles west of OR-3, 41.0 miles north of the Mountain View Motel & RV Park.

For more information or to become a volunteer, skills demonstrator, or just donate Email: volunteers(at)floraschool(dot)org.