Hike of the Month - Wallowa Lake's East Moraine

Tucked into the northeast corner of Oregon over an hour away from any interstate is the quaint town of Joseph where the south end of town is nothing short of a geological phenomenon. Thousands of years ago as glaciers tumbled across the mountains, they pushed the land into formations called moraines which now perfectly frame Wallowa Lake. 

Wallowa Lake with Wallowa Mountains and East Moraine

The moraine to the west of the lake (seen on the right in the photo above) is a rugged landscape, but the moraine to the east, aptly named the East Moraine (seen on the left), is a smooth hill overlooking the lake and mountains beyond. As a result, this land has become prime real estate with an imminent threat of development. In recent history, a local nonprofit, the Wallowa Land Trust, has been diligently lobbying and raising funds to purchase the now private land and once again make it accessible for all with a focus on restoration and conservation.

The Josephy Center in Joseph (oddly of no relation) provides education and insight into the tragic history of the Nez Perce tribe who were banished from the area after a battle led by the heroic Chief Joseph, the town's namesake. The Land Trust has been actively working with the community and the Nez Perce tribe to ensure that their conservation efforts honor the history and cultural significance of the land.

Until the Trust is able to close on the land, the owners granted limited access to the Trust to take visitors, and we were fortunate that this access happened to be on the weekend we were in town. We woke up at the crack of dawn to meet at the Wallowa Land Trust office. From there, we all headed together to the end of a dirt road where our adventure would begin.

Before we started, the Land Trust folks passed around BGood energy bars – trail treats locally made out of Wallowa County. We meandered along this relatively easy trail until all of a sudden we reached the top, and the beauty of Wallowa Lake could be seen below us. The clouds were hanging low over the lake on that side of the Moraine, but that didn’t prevent the grandeur of this view from being apparent. I couldn’t believe how lucky we were to have visited during the weekend that we were able to experience this.

Bgood energy bars with Wallowa Mountains behind

 Wallowa Lake below the East Moraine and Wallowa Mountains
View of Wallowa Lake from atop the East Moraine

There's so much to see and do in Joseph and Wallowa County, but checking out Wallowa Lake is definitely our favorite. We don't know when the East Moraine will be accessible again to take our guests, but fortunately there's other ways to currently enjoy this area just as much. Our Swiss Alps of Oregon tour includes time spent in Joseph and even a private sunset kayak tour right on Wallowa Lake. And if you're interested in learning more about the Wallowa Land Trust's efforts and the project to preserve this land, please visit the Campaign for the East Moraine