Wallowa-Whitman National Forest

Wallowa–Whitman National Forest is a national forest that is located in the states of Idaho and Oregon in the United States. It contains 2,392,508 acres of land that was once inhabited by the Nez Perce people in 1400 CE and would later become home to the Joseph Band of the same tribe. Later, other tribes inhabited the area including the Shoshone, Bannock, and Cayuse tribes and Europeans would settle there in 1860.

President Theodore Roosevelt established the Chesnimnus Reserve and the Wallowa Forest Reserve in 1905, but these were merged in 1907 to create Imnaha National Forest. One year later the name was changed to Wallowa National Forest and Whitman National Forest was established. These two forests were merged to create the forest as it is known today in 1954.

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest contains several districts and 600,000 acres of designated wilderness, which are separated into four wilderness areas. One large section of the forest, located in the Wallowa Mountains, holds Eagle Cap Wilderness and is bordered by Wallowa Lake State Park to the north. Another large division can be found in the Elkhorn Mountains and is bordered by Malheur National Forest in the southwest and by Umatilla National Forest in the northwest. A small section of the forest is located beside Joseph Canyon and is joined to the Wallowa Mountains section of the forest by the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, which protects the deepest gorge in America, called Hell’s Canyon.

The habitats within Wallowa-Whitman National Forest vary between alpine meadows and ponderosa pine forests to low altitude grasslands. Higher elevations hold a variety of trees including mountain hemlock, subalpine fir, and whitebark pine, while other areas hold white fir, Douglas-fir, and lodgepole pine trees. Other plant life that can be found in the forest includes Indian paintbrushes, larkspur, bluebells, and prickly pear cactus plants. It has been estimated that the forests holds about 173,000 acres of Old Growth forest. Many species of animal can be found in the forest including large animals like mountain goats, Rocky Mountain elk, black, bears, cougars, and gray wolves and smaller animals like pika, beavers, minks, and possibly wolverines, which are rare in the United States.

Visitors entering Wallowa-Whitman National Forest can partake in a number of activities including camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, and skiing. Camping can be conducted in fifty-two developed camp sites, most of which are open between the months of May and October, or at one of five cabins. The forest holds sixty-six hiking trails, many of which have scenic nature viewing sites, and seven bodies of water where visitors can enjoy swimming, power boating, canoeing, and partake in other water activities. Hunting and fishing within the forest is regulated by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Although many activities can be conducted for free, some require purchasing a pass, including a $5.00 day pass.

Image Caption: Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains viewed from Mount Howard. Hurwal Divide is in the front and center, Sacajawea Peak is behind and to the left. Matterhorn is on the far right. Credit: Marc Shandro/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)