Wallowa River

Coordinates: 45°43′31″N 117°47′09″W / 45.72528°N 117.78583°W / 45.72528; -117.78583
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Wallowa River
Wallowa River at Wallowa, Oregon
Wallowa River is located in Oregon
Wallowa River
Location of the mouth of the Wallowa River in Oregon
EtymologyA Nez Perce word for a triangle of stakes forming part of a fish trap[2]
CountryUnited States
CountyWallowa and Union
Physical characteristics
SourceConfluence of the east and west forks of the Wallowa River
 • locationabout 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Wallowa Lake, Wallowa County, Oregon
 • coordinates45°16′28″N 117°12′42″W / 45.27444°N 117.21167°W / 45.27444; -117.21167[1]
 • elevation4,499 ft (1,371 m)[3]
MouthGrande Ronde River
 • location
Union County, Oregon
 • coordinates
45°43′31″N 117°47′09″W / 45.72528°N 117.78583°W / 45.72528; -117.78583[1]
 • elevation
2,316 ft (706 m)
Length55 mi (89 km)[4]
Basin size950 sq mi (2,500 km2)[5]
 • locationWallowa
 • average610 cu ft/s (17 m3/s)
 • minimum89 cu ft/s (2.5 m3/s)
 • maximum4,640 cu ft/s (131 m3/s)
Basin features
 • leftLostine River, Minam River
DesignatedJuly 23, 1996

The Wallowa River is a tributary of the Grande Ronde River, approximately 55 miles (89 km) long, in northeastern Oregon in the United States. It drains a valley on the Columbia Plateau in the northeast corner of the state north of Wallowa Mountains.

The Wallowa Valley was home to Chief Joseph's band of the Nez Perce Tribe. Chief Joseph asked the first white settlers to leave when they arrived in 1871.[6] The U.S. government expelled the tribe and seized their property and livestock in 1877,[6] when non-Indian farmers and ranchers wanted to settle the fertile Wallowa valley. The tribe was barred from returning to their homeland by the government after repeated petitions. The tribal members were shipped in unheated box cars to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) to be placed in a prisoner-of-war camp never to see their home again.


The river begins at the confluence of its east and west forks, which rise in southern Wallowa County, in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of the Wallowa–Whitman National Forest. It flows generally northwest through the Wallowa Valley, parallel to the McCully Basin which is East of the ridge formed from East Peak, Hidden Peak and Aneroid Mountain. At this point, the West Fork of the Wallowa River drainage basin is connected to the North Fork of the Imnaha River by the Polaris Pass drainage divide.[7]

It then flows past the communities of Joseph, Enterprise, and Wallowa. Further upstream it receives the Minam River from the left at the hamlet of Minam. Continuing north another 10 miles (16 km), it joins the Grande Ronde along the Wallowa–Union county line about 10 miles (16 km) north-northeast of Elgin and about 81 miles (130 km) from the larger river's confluence with the Snake River.[4]


The Wallowa River supports populations of steelhead, spring Chinook salmon, and mountain whitefish among other species. Sockeye salmon were extirpated from the Wallowa River when a small dam was constructed at the outlet of Wallowa Lake in the headwaters of the river. The dam was constructed to raise the level of the lake to store water for irrigation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Wallowa River". Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). United States Geological Survey. November 28, 1980. Retrieved July 1, 2009.
  2. ^ McArthur, Lewis A.; McArthur, Lewis L. (2003). Oregon Geographic Names (Seventh ed.). Portland, Oregon: Oregon Historical Society Press. p. 1006. ISBN 0-87595-277-1..
  3. ^ Google Earth elevation for GNIS coordinates
  4. ^ a b United States Geological Survey (USGS). "United States Geological Survey Topographic Map". TopoQuest. Retrieved July 1, 2009. The maps, which include river mile (RM) markers from the mouth to the downstream end of Wallowa Lake at RM 50 or river kilometer (RK) 80, cover the following quadrangles from mouth to source: Rondowa, Howard Butte, Minam, Wallowa, Evans, Lostine, Enterprise, Joseph NW, and Joseph.
  5. ^ "Boundary Descriptions and Names of Regions, Subregions, Accounting Units and Cataloging Units". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
  6. ^ a b Deumling, Dietrich (1972). The Roles of the Railroad in the Development of the Grande Ronde Valley. Flagstaff, Arizona: Northern Arizona University. pp. 5, 7. OCLC 4383986.
  7. ^ Barstad, Fred (2014). Hiking Oregon's Eagle Cap Wilderness. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 30. ISBN 9781493010448.

External links[edit]