Published on April 28, 2012 by Amy
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. It rises in southern Wallowa County, in the Wallowa Mountains in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of the Wallowa–Whitman National Forest. It flows generally northwest through the Wallowa Valley, past the communities of Joseph, Enterprise, and Wallowa. It receives the Minam River from the south at the hamlet of Minam, then flows north another 10 miles (16 km) to join the Grande Ronde along the Wallowa–Union county line approximately 10 miles (16 km) north-northeast of Elgin and about 81 miles (130 km) from the larger river’s confluence with the Snake River.
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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. The government expelled the tribe in 1877, when non-Indian farmers and ranchers wanted to settle the fertile Wallowa valley.
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.