La Grande Oregon is in the northeastern corner of the state. This is a wonderful round bowl shaped valley with mountains everywhere you look. The valley is named “Grande Ronde” from the early French trappers and explorers. The early explorers admired the grand round view from the valley. The valley was an important rendezvous site for the Native people of the southern Columbia Plateau. In the summer, Nez Perce, Umatilla, Cayuse and others came here to hunt, fish, gather roots and trade in peace. The Indians often called this Peace Valley, White settlers heading further west to the Willamette Valley came through this area and some stayed and settled the area. This caused friction with the Native peoples and violence ensued beginning in 1862 during which time the US Cavalry killed or captured many Natives.
The original settlers were followed by gold miners who came to this area to mine in Idaho and eastern Oregon spurring growth in the farm communities. The railroad followed in 1884 cementing La Grande as the hub of the valley. In 1875 Blue Mountain University was established by the Methodists and in 1929 the Eastern Oregon University was founded. EOU continues to be an important part of the fabric of the community and is the only state liberal arts university east of the Cascades. The economy now is an agricultural one. Crops include hay, grass seed, alfalfa, wheat, and various other plants.
La grande is a popular year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Anthony Lakes Ski Resort has some of the best powder in the Intermountain West. The 6000 acre Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area is super for birdwatching and hunting area and home to the largest hard stem bulrush marsh in northeastern Oregon, which is a glimpse of what the valley looked like before agriculture took over. Geologically, La Grande is between the Blue Mountains and the Wallowa mountains with the Grande Ronde River being the major waterway. There are many major faults that run through the valley (our campground sits right on top of one) and several geologic hot springs like Grand Hot Springs where we are. The Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is on the eastern border and not to be missed. At over 8000 feet deep it is the deepest gorge in the US and the views are outstanding. Water rafting abounds!
Peg and I have been taking in the northeastern side of the valley, enjoying the mountain terrain and views. We took a trip on the Hell’s Canyon Scenic Byway from Baker City up through the mountains to the Idaho side of the Snake River where we had lunch and marveled at the dam and canyon vista. Hell’s Canyon is the deepest canyon in the United States, deeper than the Grand Canyon. Driving to the Hell’s Canyon Dam (owned by Idaho Power) is breath taking. The road follows the river into the canyon as the walls become steeper and steeper. I must admit there is a sinister feel to the canyon as the walls close in on you. The road crosses the dam and follows the cliff walls down to the visitor center and on a short walk to the river boat launch. It is quite a leap of faith to start over the dam road as visually it runs straight into a sheer cliff wall, it is only when about half way across that you catch a glimpse to the road down. It is a couple of tight turns, for sure!
The people here are wonderful, friendly and welcoming. Peg, Scout and I took in the fireman’s pancake breakfast in Elgin where ate in the local firehouse. We were treated just like we had always been there. The Elgin River Fest had an antique car and tractor show which was nice. The pictures don’t do the cars justice. Someone in this area really knows how to paint cars, just beautiful workmanship. We talked with several of the exhibitors and they are one proud group, as they should be.
Another small town near the park is Union. Union has a grocery store with character and a drug store with a real fountain service. We took in a couple of real chocolate malts while sitting outside. Scout was the big attraction getting petted by everyone going in and out of the drugstore. One very nice lady gave him ice and then some ice and Diet Coke. Wasn’t sure about the Coke but Scout enjoyed it and no harm came of it. Other than he is more spoiled now.
Yes we are having a fine time here in this very interesting part of Oregon! Hope you enjoy the pictures.
Thanks for reading!