Wallowa Lake Tramway

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Wallowa Lake Tramway
A gondola begins its descent from Mount Howard. Wallowa Lake and the Wallowa Valley are to the right.
Tramway from top of Mount Howard with Wallowa Lake in the background
Location59919 Wallowa Lake Highway
Joseph, Oregon
CountryUnited States
Coordinates45°15′49″N 117°10′51″W / 45.26355°N 117.1809°W / 45.26355; -117.1809Coordinates: 45°15′49″N 117°10′51″W / 45.26355°N 117.1809°W / 45.26355; -117.1809
TerminiMount Howard
Elevationlowest:  4,450 feet (1,360 m)
highest: 8,150 feet (2,480 m)
No. of stations2
Construction begin1968
Carrier capacity4
Operating timesmid-May until early October
Trip duration15 minutes
Technical features
Aerial lift typeMono-cable gondola detachable
Line length19,300 feet (5,900 m)
No. of support towers25
Installed power150 h.p.

The Wallowa Lake Tramway is an aerial cable gondola lift near Joseph, Oregon, in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest of the United States, named for Wallowa Lake. The tram runs from the floor of the Wallowa Valley to the top of Mount Howard.[1] It travels to an elevation of 8,000 feet (2,400 m) above sea level and allows for views of the Eagle Cap Wilderness area and the rest of the Wallowa Mountains.[2]


The tramway was built in 1968,[3] and opened for service in 1970.[4] In June 1992, a malfunction caused the evacuation of the lift's passengers who were then flown by helicopter down the mountain, with no injuries reported.[5] This was the first safety incident for the tram.[4] Later that year, the tramway was used to haul fire fighters fighting a forest fire to the top of the mountain.[6] In 1999, tram owners explored expanding the tramway to include a winter resort.[7]


Twenty-five towers are used along the route to support the cables of tramway.[3] The Wallowa Lake Tramway rises 3,700 feet (1,100 m) vertically,[8] starting at the 4,200-foot (1,300 m) level of the lake.[9] At the top of the gondola ride, an elevation of 8,150 feet (2,480 m), is Oregon's highest restaurant, the Alpine Grill.[10] The Tramway runs May through October.[11] It formerly ran on the weekends in winter for skiing and snowshoeing.[12] The four-person gondolas take fifteen minutes to make a one-way trip.[8][12]

The tram is the steepest four-person gondola in North America, ending at the 8,256-foot (2,516 m) peak of Mount Howard.[13] The tram is operated on 115 acres (0.47 km2) of land leased from the Forest Service through a special national forest permit.[7] At the summit one can view wildlife,[1] and wildflowers in an alpine meadow. Parts of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho are visible from the summit. Two miles (3 km) of hiking trails are available.[4]


  1. ^ a b Oppenheimer, Laura. Beyond Bend. The Oregonian, August 19, 2007.
  2. ^ Producer offers glimpse of adventures in Oregon. Albany Democrat-Herald, April 10, 2007.
  3. ^ a b Oregon's Eagle Cap opens to skiers. Spokesman Review, December 31, 1997.
  4. ^ a b c Richards, Suzanne. Little Switzerland destination Northwest. The Oregonian, January 6, 1991.
  5. ^ Malfunction forces removal of 7 from aerial tramway car. The Oregonian, June 2, 1992.
  6. ^ Meehan, Brian T. 100 firefighters battling blaze in remote Mount Hood forest. The Oregonian, August 22, 1992.
  7. ^ a b Barker, Eric. Owners of Wallowa Lake Tramway want to expand; Owners of tramway ask the U.S. Forest Service for permission to expand into a full-scale ski area. Lewiston Morning Tribune, October 16, 1999.
  8. ^ a b Lorton, Steven R. Wonderful Wallowas; Wallowa Mountains, Oregon. Sunset, August 1, 2000, No. 2, Vol. 205; Pg. 34 ; ISSN 0039-5404.
  9. ^ Miller, Walt. Water and wildlife add zest to best campgrounds. The San Diego Union-Tribune, March 15, 1992.
  10. ^ Summit Grill & Alpine Patio. Wallowa Lake Tramway. Retrieved on February 26, 2008.
  11. ^ OPERATING CALENDAR. Wallowa Lake Tramway. Retrieved on September 1, 2017.
  12. ^ a b Richard, Terry. The Wallowas in winter. The Oregonian, December 17, 2000.
  13. ^ Wood, Terry. Get Out - Eastern Oregon: Serious hikes, spectacular scenery put the WOW in Wallowa. The Seattle Times. September 13, 2007.

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