Resources & Public Lands in the Blue Mountains - Outside Walla Walla

A Walk Through Time

The rich history of the valley is extensive and incredibly interesting. Luckily, many folks in the valley have diligently researched and reported on many aspects that have shaped our history. With three colleges and universities, folks who have dedicated their career to geology, biology, and other areas of expertise offer extensively researched information to help locals and tourists alike further their appreciation of our natural world and cultural heritage.

As part of Outside Walla Walla’s mission to showcase outdoor recreation in the Blue Mountain region, we hope to offer up resources that support that mission, deepening our collective understanding of our home or home away from home. Many Waters: Natural History of the Walla Walla Valley and Vicinity is a collection of writings from local experts that cover everything from geography, geology, paleontology, to biology. The books also displays a number of Leslie Cain’s iconic paintings of the valley to illustrate the local beauty, which is a true treat to view such an expansive collection of her work.

Another great, comprehensive read is The Wallowa Mountains: A Natural History Guide by Keith Pohs. Everything from climate to geology to flora & fauna as well as Eagle Cap Wilderness Trails is covered in an educational and captivating manner. After reading, returning to the area feels like a completely new experience with all your newfound knowledge. The mountains look different, a new bird catches your eye–it will truly enhance your experience of the area!

The Blue Mountain Land Trust also publishes The Blues, which is an informative, yet worthy of the coffee table publication. Many folks volunteer their time and expertise to make these books come to fruition. Proceeds support the Land Trust and all their amazing work. Collect the entire set! Whenever we find information–books, articles, websites–that capture our attention and deepen our understanding of the area, we will be sure to pass along the information.

The Lostine River is located in northeast Oregon on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Its headwaters are Minam Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Sixteen miles are designated under the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. The upper five miles of the designated segment, within the wilderness, are classified as wild, and the lower 11 miles are classified as recreational and extend to the forest boundary. The river supports an abundance of wildlife as well as recreational endeavors, including fishing and expert-level kayaking.

Our Protected Places

Many of the reasons the Blue Mountain region has such accessible, intact, preserved natural places to recreate is thanks to the vision of those who have come before us who advocated for Wild and Scenic Rivers, Wilderness Areas, and the National Forests, to name a few. Because of these programs and federally recognized designations, the same places that we are taking our children to explore will theoretically be around for them to take their children. We want to take a moment to recognize these programs and their impact on the Blue Mountain region.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protects more than 12,700 miles of rivers and streams around the country. It was created by Congress in 1968 to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The designation projects the rivers from damming or otherwise altering the river, bank alterations, and mineral, gas, or oil extraction thus protecting wildlife habitat as well as clean, safe drinking water.

The Wenaha, Minam, Grande Ronde, Lostine, and Imnaha are just a few rivers in our area that are protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers act. Many activities discussed take adventurers to these areas. Oregon is actually home to over 1,900 miles of protected rivers, including the Rogue River which was one of the original eight rivers designated by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

The National Wilderness Preservation System protects over 109 million acres within 760 wilderness areas across the country. Commonly referred to as the Wilderness Act, these places are unique and special in that they represent some of the last expanses of land devoid of technology and development. Nature is the boss. The Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness, and Eagle Cap Wilderness areas are within the Umatilla National Forest and Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, respectively. No facilities are available within these areas, meaning leave no trace. Cell phones will likely not work, so pack the map and compass and emergency supplies. Travel is permitted on foot or horseback. Typically, there are check-in areas that require you to leave basic information about yourself and intended plans for the trip. Please do so!

The US Forest Service manages and protects 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in 43 states and Puerto Rico. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.Their mission statement is caring for the land and serving people. The Forest Service’s rich history began in the late 19th century and was charged with protecting our country’s valuable timber resources. Today, the Forest Service does that and so much more, including recreation. Many programs and resources are available at local Forest Services offices, so check out all the great things the Forest Service does to promote our natural places.