City Guides

Discover Rural Eastern Oregon: Joseph

Brooke Faulkner
January 16, 2024

Near a place referred to as Hell’s Canyon is a small town with a sign that reads, “This town is like heaven to us, don’t drive like hell through it.” Joseph is a rural town in Eastern Oregon that holds charm as well as majesty as a result of its surrounding landscape. There are only three roads that enter town, and they all end at Wallowa Lake.

The town is surrounded by the Wallowa mountains and the seemingly endless Eagle Cap Wilderness. It has maintained its deep-rooted agricultural heritage while still paying homage to Chief Joseph and his tribe that inhabited the area before them.

Stroll Through Town

To start off your trip in Joseph, gain your bearings by taking a walk through town. It won’t take a lot of your time. Main Street is only about a mile long. The cute local shops offer plenty of trinkets and gadgets to explore for both kids and adults. You may notice that there are an exorbitant amount of galleries in comparison to restaurants. There is a reason: Joseph is a small artistic town that prides itself on the bronze sculptures you can admire on every street corner.

Learn How to Fly Fish

Wallowa is a Nez Perce word meaning “Winding Waters.” There are numerous drainages that flow from the surrounding peaks creating a landscape of clear, healthy streams, creeks and rivers — that happen to be full of healthy fish. You can attempt to learn on your own, but there are friendly guides willing to help you out any day of the week. Consider taking your father along to give him the dad adventure he has always wanted. You can learn how to fly fish right in town or jump on a whitewater rafting trip with one of the local outfitters to give him more of a thrill.

Josephy Center

If you are looking to spend some time indoors, make sure to stop by the Josephy Center. They have rotating exhibitions of local artists for your viewing pleasure. If you are itching to do something with your hands, they also offer a broad array of classes. They have regularly scheduled classes such as ceramics, painting/drawing classes, and printmaking to look forward to. Occasionally, they feature a local artist’s crafts and hold weekend workshops where you can learn a new skill or trade.

Hike the Wallowas

Hiking in the Wallowas doesn’t have to be a back-breaking event. With numerous trails surrounding the area, you can set out for a simple day hike or join a horsepacking team and stay off your feet. If you are going out alone, make sure you are prepared with a first-aid kit and enough water, and tell someone where you are headed before you head out. Getting up above the town offers breathtaking views no matter which direction that you head. If you are looking for more of a stroll and to learn about the local ecology, check out the guided hikes that are offered by one the many local naturalists.

Take a Dip in Wallowa Lake

Whether you chose to enjoy the swim area on the public beach or go to the other side and rent a boat from the marina, that clear water is going to call your name. The water is refreshingly cool due to the snowmelt from the surrounding peaks creating an irresistibly clear lake. The reflection of the mountains can be seen in the lake on a still day and makes for beautiful picture taking. Even if you don’t want to get in, just laying in a hammock by the lake taking in the view can be cleansing enough.

The journey to Joseph can prove to be challenging for some since it is so far off the map. Whether traveling by car, plane or bus, with a little more travel planning it may take to travel from city to city, you could find your own little piece of Heaven in Joseph.

Brooke Faulkner
Brooke Faulkner is a writer and mom in the Pacific Northwest. She loves exposing her children to new cultures and experiences and being able to make a living doing so! You can find her on twitter, @faulknercreek!


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