Exploration Adventures

Touring for Grand Views

hat point grand viewThe stunning landscape around Joseph Oregon is characterized by extremes of elevation. While most rightly associate the Joseph area with the mountains, a large area is actually made up of canyons.

Our canyons aren't just slight little things; they include the deepest gorge North America! Looking at a topographic map of the area will reveal a very furrowed landscape- in fact if it weren't for the higher mountains, Joseph might well be thought of as 'Canyon Country.'

The forces were extreme! While the Eagle Cap and Seven Devils were literally lifted up off the sea floor (you can find sand dollar fossils on the mountain tops) the relentless forces of erosion were busy carving things in the opposite direction. The process continues to this day.

Northeastern Oregon's eastern boarder is defined by the mighty Snake River/Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in North America. The Seven Devils Range sits just across that border in Idaho and accentuates the elevation difference. Also cutting across the area are two other major canyons: Joseph Creek and The Imnaha, along with a multitude other smaller creeks that form canyons of their own.

The greatest canyon expanse can be seen at Buckhorn where the Imnaha converges with the Snake River to create an immensely vast and rugged landscape that stretches out for miles. It includes views of both the Devils and the Eagle Cap. It's absolutely breathtaking, even if you have visited the Grand Canyon.

As you drive around the area you'll notice a patchwork of tree sizes. This area, including all of the massive 652,488 acre Hell Canyon Recreation Area (HCNRA) is subject to lightning caused wildfires due to the convective (thunderstorm) activity generated by the heat in the canyons themselves. Fire has always been part of the area's natural history and is a necessary ingredient for the health and indeed the survival of many of the species that have evolved on this land. After years of fire suppression, scientific study revealed the error in our ways and thankfully the Forest Service now practices prescribed burning in the HCNRA, returning the forest to a more natural, healthier state. Burning the ladder fuels helps to protect these forests from catastrophic wildfires that kill everything. It also creates park-like stands of Ponderosa Pine that are some of the most beautiful on the planet.

You could spend many days just touring for your favorite vista, but beware; while some are a Sunday drive, others are quite harrowing and might make you feel like you're in one of those movies about Peru. So before you depart please consider the guides below and in all cases drive slow anywhere you can't see around corners; it's surprising just where you'll encounter traffic or animals. Check your spare and come prepared with plenty of gas and water and don't forget your camera!

Hat Point including Imnaha & Granny View Vista

hat pointThis tour includes two major canyons that are distinctly unique and beautiful in their own way. Hells Canyon is the deepest gorge in North America and the Imnaha Canyon is Northeastern Oregon’s second largest; together they form the heart of the Hells Canyon Recreation area. Standing on the ridge across from the Seven Devils Mountains is a sight like no other, truly a natural wonder. The journey offers several pull-outs with incredible views plus an opportunity to stop in Imnaha for food or refreshments.

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Buckhorn Overlook including Zumwalt Prairie

buckhorn lookoutBuckhorn Lookout presents one of the most vast and beautiful canyon views anywhere, even if you've visited The Grand Canyon. The beautiful drive travels through Oregon’s largest natural intact grassland: The Zumwalt Prairie. In June there are wildflowers galore and the emerald green fields of grass when they’re moving in a breeze are a sight to behold. If you come in late July to August be sure to check the forested areas for Huckleberries- they’re a scrumptious treat!

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Hells Canyon Overlook including the Upper Imnaha River

hells canyon overlookThe Hells Canyon overlook presents a perfect opportunity to travel the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, a favorite for those into 'touring', whether by bicycle, motorcycle, car or RV. This is also a great route to see the upper Imnaha River region and some of the most beautiful old-growth Ponderosa Pine forests in the lower 48.

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Joseph Creek Viewpoint including Flora & Troy

Grande Ronde CanyonThis excursion allows one to experience the many environs of the area and will also give you a look into the regions past. Joseph Canyon was a wintering ground for the Wallowa Band of the Nez Perce. The failed town of Flora was once a thriving pioneer town. Troy was settled by early Mormons in the 1890's. The area remains an active spot for river recreation. Each of these locations has something unique to offer and will give the explorer a greater appreciation of the area.

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