Friday, October 5, 2018

Petroglyph Day Trip from Joseph

Petroglyphs on rocks in the Snake River canyon near Joseph Oregon
Snake river petroglyph site near Joseph Oregon
 It's a nice day trip from the Mountain View Motel & RV Park near Joseph, Oregon,  to see petroglyphs along the Snake River at the Buffalo Eddy historical site.
The artwork at Buffalo Eddy is attributed to the the Nimí'pu (Nez Perce), who created the art between 300 and 4,500 years ago, according to the National Park Service. The symbols are preserved on both the Washington and Idaho sides of the river, but the glyphs on the Idaho side can only be viewed from the water, which makes for a popular tour boat stop. Buffalo Eddy takes its name from some of the pictures on the Idaho side, which depict bison and hunters on horseback.

A tour boat on the Snake River

To get there from the motel, turn left (north) on the Snake River Scenic Byway (Hwy 82), to Enterprise, then turn right at the Chevron station onto Oregon Route 3 toward Flora and Lewiston. Fill up on gas in Enterprise because the next fuel is 79 miles north in Asotin and these directions take a shortcut that cuts off before then.

Two miles north of Enterprise, you may see buffalo grazing at Stangel Bison Ranch. Grass fed bison meat from the ranch is locally available at The Dollar Stretcher Grocery Store at Enterprise and at several local restaurants.
At 21.6 miles you will enter the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest with many roads and trails to explore sometime. 
Joseph Canyon Viewpoint overlooks Joseph Creek
The pullout at Joseph Canyon Viewpoint, 30 miles north of Enterprise, features a beautiful vista of Joseph Canyon, where, tradition says, Chief Joseph was born in a cave about 2,000 feet below.  Joseph's band sometimes wintered at the base of the canyon along Joseph Creek.
An interpretive sign shows soldiers emptying a Nez Perce camus cache
There are interpretive signs and vault toilets at the pullout.

After about seven more miles, the road starts winding down Rattlesnake Grade with extreme switchbacks and beautiful scenery, and the Grand Ronde River at the bottom. You'll cross into Washington on this stretch and the road turns into Hwy 129. Bogan's Oasis, on the river is the place to stop and eat or get an order to go. Then the highway continues snaking back up to the top of the plateau.

Scenic Rattlesnake Grade flanks the Grande Ronde River

Just after leaving the trees past Fields Spring State Park, look for Montgomery Rd. on the right (58 miles past Enterprise). Follow this road for 19 miles down to the Snake River. It turns from asphalt to dirt and changes to Sherry Grade Rd., then Crouse Creek Rd., before bringing you to Snake River Rd.

Turn right on Snake River Rd. and drive 4.5 miles to the Buffalo Eddy Petroglyph pullout. There is an interpretive sign and a short trail that leads to a tumble of rocks along the water with many ancient symbols scratched into them. How many can you find?
A visitor at Buffalo Eddy takes a picture of a petroglyph

Friday, May 4, 2018

When Squirrels Fly

If you see a small squirrel-sized animal gliding through the air at night in the forest around Joseph, it just might be a flying squirrel.

They are usually active for a couple of hours after sunset and for a little more than an hour before sunrise. Flying squirrels love wild mushrooms and they help spread fungi spores through the forest.

You can learn all about flying squirrels, where to spot them, and how to promote habitat for them on your property, at a free presentation by Todd Wilson, PhD, at Wallowalogy in Joseph on May 10 at 7 pm. Call 541-263-1663  for info.

For wildlife viewing opportunities in Oregon, check out the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Weekly Recreation Report to discover what wild animals are out and about and where you might spot them.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Mountain Biking in the Wallowas

Photo courtesy of Brian Sather, the Grizzly Ridge Trail near Imnaha.
Mountain bikers who plan to do some riding in Wallowa County should check out the network of mapped, signed and maintained trails south of Joseph, which are promoted by the Wallowa Chamber of Commerce with maps and instructions. Trailheads are near Ferguson Ridge Snow Park, 14 miles south of Joseph, and at the Salt Creek Summit pull-out, 19 miles south of town. Riding season is typically mid-June to the end of October.

The Redmont Trail Area near Joseph, Oregon
The trails lie mostly within the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and include rides suitable for beginner to advanced. Bike riders will find a mix of single track, double track, and dirt/gravel roads that traverse forested terrain with several meadow openings that reveal views of the mountains.

A contributor to the in the mtbr forum says the Redmont Trail has "some decent tread for about a 14-mile loop." Another wasn't quite as impressed due to an undesirable amount of double track and overgrown roads. But from reading the Wallowa Chamber's website, it looks like more energy has gone into rider hospitality in recent years.

Even so, MTB opportunities are limited in the Wallowa area despite the profusion of wide open country and public lands. For example, no bikes are allowed on the trails around Wallowa State Park and much of the surrounding forest beyond the park is Wilderness. The beautiful grasslands of  Zumwalt Prairie north of town are also off limits to bikes.

Mountain bikers are naturally attracted to the idea of hauling their gear up Howard Mountain on the Tram on the south end of Wallowa Lake, but that desire is unfortunately not supported by the owners at this time.

There are a few other cool rides you may want to check out on the way to Joseph. The Elkhorn Crest Trail near Baker offers single track, and there are riding opportunities between Enterprise and the Grande Ronde River in the Sled Springs OHV area along State Hwy 82.
For detailed insights about these trails and other possibilities, check MTB enthusiast Brian Sather's Mountain Bike Guides for Joseph on LaGrande Ride Inc,

Saturday, April 21, 2018

When Hollywood Came to the Wallowas.

The filming of Paint Your Wagon, a Western musical filmed in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest fifty years ago, is being commemorated at the Baker Heritage Museum this year.

Set in a remote California gold rush town called No Name City, the main characters, played by Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, and Jean Seberg, were working out the question of whether a woman can have two husbands.

The Making Of - "PAINT YOUR WAGON" - Behind The Scenes by jleepixprod

The action started in May 1968, with the construction of No Name City at East Eagle and Jack Creeks. A Forest Service sign marks the spot today. A model of the boom town is part of the museum exhibit. Other area filming sites included a tent city at the convergence of Kettle Creek and East Eagle, a stage stop at Anthony Lakes, and a mill in Baker City.

A casting office for extras opened in Baker City and all the excitement made for a memorable summer for the locals, who remember running into various stars around town, as well as being exposed to a lot of hippies who came up from California to be extras.

Clint Eastwood enjoyed fly fishing during his time off, and Lee Marvin preferred drinking with locals in area taverns. In fact, rumor has it Marvin's heavy drinking during the filming led to delays and many retakes. The delays frustrated Eastwood, who said the experience strengthened his resolve to become a director, according to

A woman named Mary Ann was just 14 at the time, lived about a mile from No Name City, which her father helped build. It was exciting to watch all the actors, extras, and even a bear, being chauffeured past their home each day on the way to the set. Her recollections are part of an archive at

Here is a Baker City Herald article from 2001 where some locals share stories about how the filming and rubbing shoulders with the stars impacted them.

If you were there and have stories to share, or just want to hear local tales of when Hollywood came to the Eagle Cap, mark your calendar for Thursday, June 14th, at 6 pm for the Paint Your Wagon Storytelling Event at the museum. Admission: Adults (13+) $7.00, Seniors (60+) $6.00, Children (12 and under) Free. The museum is open daily for the season, 9am - 4pm. 2480 Grove Street, Baker City, OR 97814, 541-523-9308.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Wallowa County's Historical Bug Out Camp

The historical Eugene Pallette place near Joseph, Oregon. Photo courtesy of

Eugene William Pallette is one of two famous actors who found a refuge from the glitz and glare of Hollywood in Wallowa County. (The other is Walter Brennan).

Pallette is known for roles such as Friar Tuck in The Adventures of Robinhood and Fray Felipe in The Mark of Zorro. He worked steadily from 1913 to 1946, spanning the silent and sound movie eras, then he moved to the wilds of Wallowa County.

Buying the Ranch
Pallette and his partner Claude Hall began purchasing land 68 miles southeast of Joseph, Oregon, on the upper Imnaha River in the late 1930s, including the homestead the Butler family established in 1893 and the old Fruita post office.
Pallette built many of the improvements on the ranch with his own hands. When he wasn't doing chores and fixing up the place, he enjoyed fishing with actor friends like Clark Gable, who shared his love of the outdoors.
Well Stocked Hideout
By the mid-1940s Pallette and Hall had amassed a 3,500 spread. It was the midst of WWII and the ranch was stocked with everything a person and his friends would need to hide from the communists and survive the end of the world as we know it.

A reporter of the day heard something about the Hollywood actor building an elaborate bug-out camp in the wilds of Oregon and the news turned into a media feeding frenzy. By the time the Saturday Evening Post got hold of the story, the Pallette Ranch had become "Hollywood's Hideout." Others called it a "fortress" that was reportedly stocked with a sizeable herd of cattle, enormous food supplies, and had its own canning plant and lumber mill.
Whether or not the virulently anti-Communist Pallette was turning his remote ranch into a bug-out sanctuary, he certainly didn't appreciate all the media attention about his activities.
"I’d like to lay my hands on that guy," Pallette said in a 1940 interview with journalist Sheilah Graham. "I mean the guy who started the story that I have a country hideaway for actors in case the war or something forces them out of work, or ‘comes the revolution.’"
In 1977, Pallette’s former partner, Claude Hall, wrote in the Lewiston Morning Tribune that, "Such remarks would anger Gene." Yet a few paragraphs later the article noted that Pallette, "stored all the staples that his community might need to survive an invasion."

Back to Hollywood

Pallette wearied of the place for one reason or another and in 1948 he began to dispose of the ranch holdings. He returned to Los Angeles, but never appeared in another movie.

Whatever Pallette's intentions for the ranch, it definitely looks like it would have been a good place to wait out the end of the world. A real estate brochure from 2013 depicted the remote homestead with a number of rustic structures, including a 976-square foot log home with wood and propane stoves; an 836-square foot guests house, a bunk house with five rooms, a mess hall, a bathhouse with deck and Jacuzzi, historic cabin, barn, machine shop, warehouse, and a pantry with large walk-in fridge and freezer, wood shed, and ice house.

A portion of the original Pallette Ranch holdings were purchased in 2016 by a couple from Western Washington. They have been raising cattle and fixing up the place for weddings, family reunions, and other group rentals. Message them on Facebook for information.








Friday, March 30, 2018

Do you need a gift idea?

Wallowa Chamber bucks are the gift that keeps giving locally
When there is someone you want to honor or appreciate, think local. Do you have special guests coming to town? Give the gift that uniquely says "Wallowa County" with a Chamber Buck gift certificate. They come in denominations of $10 and $25.

Recipients can spend the bucks around the county to acquire basic needs or treats. It's a 360 win. The recipients are happy, the businesses are happy, and the local community benefits when value circulates locally. That's a lot of  happy people, so why not head down to the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce office in Enterprise today and trade some federal reserve notes for genuine Wallowa Buckskin Bucks?

From hanging floral baskets to massages, computer supplies, groceries, overnight lodgings, food, hardware, clothing, jewelry, art, fishing tackle, pet grooming, a quilt, propane, or even an espresso, there are many ways to share the love with Wallowa Buckskin Bucks.

Be sure to tell the recipients they have one year from the purchase date written on their bucks to redeem their certificates.

Wallowa bucks are gladly accepted at the following businesses, so check them out and let your gifting imagination run wild: (Look for campaign decals on participating storefronts.)

The list of businesses on the back of the bucks may become slightly out-of-date, so be sure to check the Wallowa County Buy Local Web page for the current list of participants.

  • Alder Slope Nursery
  • Anton's Home & Hearth
  • Arrowhead Chocolates
  • Backyard Gardens
  • Bee Charmed Marketplace
  • Bird Dog Signs
  • Blue Mountain Computer
  • Bronze Antler B&B, Inc.
  • Cabin Fever Cafe & NW Marketplace
  • Camerons Wallowa County Ace Hardware
  • Carpet One
  • Cattle Country Quilts
  • Copper Creek Mercantile
  • Deb's Apparel & Gifts
  • Embers Brew House
  • Enterprise Animal Hospital
  • Enterprise Flower Shop
  • Favorite Finds on Main - Antiques
  • Joseph Fly Shoppe, LLC
  • Joseph Hardware, Inc.
  • Lamb Trading Company, LLC
  • Longhorn Espresso
  • M. Crow & Company
  • Mad Mary's
  • Marcy's Skin Care
  • Mt. Joseph Family Foods
  • Outlaw Restaurant & Saloon
  • Phinney Gallery of Fine Art
  • Pioneer West, Inc.
  • Radiant Massage
  • Red Horse Coffee Traders
  • Red Rooster Cafe
  • Ruby Peak Naturals
  • Simply Sandy's
  • Stein Distillery, Inc.
  • Stewart Jones Designs
  • Stubborn Mule Saloon & Steakhouse
  • Sugar Time Bakery
  • Tempting Teal Boutique
  • The Blonde Strawberry
  • The Bookloft
  • The Dollar Stretcher
  • The Peace Pipe
  • The Sheep Shed
  • The Sports Corral, Inc.
  • Timber Bronze 53 LLC
  • to Zion
  • Vali's Alpine Restaurant, LLC
  • Wallowa County Grain Growers
  • Wallowa County Nursery
  • Wallowa Food City
  • Wild Carrots Herbals
Inspired by Historical Emergency Scrip

The present-day Buckskin Bucks were inspired by the emergency scrip that was printed on leather and issued in Enterprise during the Great Depression, when the county's general fund ran dry, but there were plenty of deer hides.

The original Wallowa County Bucks are collector's items that occasionally pop up online. As of this writing, one is for sale on E-bay for $225. Who knows -- maybe in 100 years today's Buckskin Bucks will be collectible as well.

Today's Bucks are part of the Wallowa Chamber's pragmatic year-round shop local campaign, "Think First Wallowa County." The program is sponsored by the Chamber, Community Bank, and Esprit.

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 high railroad trestle in an Inland NW forest
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. 

"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.

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.