U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest

Idaho and Oregon

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Forest Information

The Wallowa (wa-lowa) and Whitman National Forests are combined into one Forest, known as the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. It is located in the northeastern corner of Oregon and northwestern Idaho. In Oregon, there are 2,226,023 acres and in Idaho there are 3,208 acres. There are 33 developed campgrounds, eighteen of which meet the selection criteria.

The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is a hyphened forest, not only in its name but also its personality. There really are two forests within the Wallowa-Whitman. There is the wild, rugged, untamed northern section, ideal for car, tent, and small recreational vehicle (RV) campers and folks who like to explore on horseback. Here Mother Nature seems to have a surprise for you over every other mountain. The Forest's southern section, with its neat, civilized feel, is a great place for RV and motorhome camping enthusiasts and folks who prefer a more gentle, predictable forest experience. This split personality gives the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest a wide range of recreational opportunities with camping facilities to match. And, a great feature of this two-for-one Forest is that it seems to be, for the most part, undiscovered.

While the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has a variety of recreational things to do, many visitors come to enjoy one of its several Scenic Byways. Possibly the most popular and best known is Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, followed by the Imnaha River Loop, then Elkhorn Drive, and least well known and traveled, is Snake River Mormon Basin Back Country Byway. This last Byway is ideal for 4X4 enthusiasts and provides a close up view of a High Desert environment and an appreciation for those early pioneers who crossed this way via wagon, foot, and horseback. Hells Canyon Scenic Byway winds through the Forest and provides views of a healthy woodland, dynamic landscape, and glimpses of the dramatic Hells Canyon. Imnaha River Loop is a motorcyclist and photographer's dream but beware: Imnaha River Loop has more curves than a Las Vegas chorus line. Looping through the southern part of Wallowa-Whitman, the Elkhorn Drive offers not only beautiful scenery but a glimpse into the area's past.

The human history along Elkhorn Drive is easy to find. Places like Sumpter, with its Historic Railroad and Dredge, the semi-ghost town of Granite with its weathered buildings and dirt roads, and Haines, a rough and ready old West town, are all along the route and speak not only of "wild-and-wooly" days but the endurance and imagination of those early settlers. Mining brought people from all over the world to the area and one unique and special sight on this route that illustrates this diversity are the Chinese Walls but there are more for discovery. Just how important ranching was and is to the area, can be seen by the many ranches and hay fields scattered along the Elkhorn Drive and in the Main Street buildings of the warm and friendly community of Baker City.

Along the Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway are several developed campgrounds well placed for either exploring or just relaxing. The most developed of all the Forest's campgrounds is on the Elkhorn Drive, namely, Union Creek campground. This campground has a loop with full-hook-ups, two loops with partial hook-ups, and a secluded area for tent campers and all on the banks of Phillips Reservoir. For a more basic camping experience, there is the nearby Southwest Shore campground. Looking for more of an "alpine" environment, try Anthony Lakes campground. Here campers can set up their camp in the shadow of Gunsight Mountain just south of John Day Wilderness and is a good location for hiking into the Wilderness and escaping the summer heat.

Hells Canyon Scenic Byway is all about scenery and dramatic landscape shaped by the powerful influences of volcanoes and water. This part of Oregon contains some of the state's oldest mountains, formed eons ago by volcanic activity and worn down by rain, snow, and wind. For the most part, the mountains' gentle contours are covered by dense, dark green conifers that hide the geological past. Only where rivers have carved through the mountains, visitors can see the volcanic origin of these mountains. But shaping of the land isn't complete. This is illustrated by a 2006 flood that changed Lake Fork Creek's course, closed the Lake Fork campground (date of reopening unknown) and exposed new wonders.

One place to see the land's most ancient history is in Hells Canyon and a good base camp for exploring the Canyon, is Ollokot campground. Hells Canyon's premiere viewpoint, Hat Point, is a pleasant day trip up Imnaha River Loop. However, along the wild and scenic Imnaha River, with Ponderosa pine providing shade to Ollokot's camp sites and Rainbow and Brook trout waiting to be caught, day trips may not be on the agenda.

For human history there is Shady campground in the Lostine River corridor that was once a sheep camp later developed into a campground by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. An informative day trip from Birdtrack Springs and Spool Cart campgrounds is the Oregon Trail Interpretive Park, just off I-84, illustrates another part of the Forest's history. At this Park, visitors can actually walk on the old stagecoach roadway and beside ruts cut by pioneers using Oregon Trail. And don't forget about Sumpter, OR with its railroading, mining, and logging history.

With so much to offer, visitors to the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest can accept the challenge of a raging river, tangle with a willy old trout, enjoy a quiet afternoon canoeing, have a day of birdwatching, or enjoy the solitude of a back-country hike while camping in one of the most attractive forests in the region. Whether you are looking for something wild and challenging or a quiet and predictable forest experience, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest's dual personality has what you want.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 201 E Second St. Joesph, Oregon 97846 541-523-6391 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Whitman 201 E. Second St. Joesph, Oregon 97846 541-523-4476 La Grande 3502 Hwy. 30 La Grande, Oregon 97850 541-963-7186 Wallowa Mountains 201 E. Second St. Joesph, Oregon 97846 541-426-5546

Fred and Suzi Dow