Imnaha Canyon and Wallowa Lake

Words like rugged and canyon fall short of conveying the desperate heights and depths of Hells Canyon.  This canyon holds the superlative of being the deepest gorge in America due to the mountain ranges that flank it: the Wallowas and Seven Devils.  The Wallowa Mountains in Oregon are further from the Snake River than the Seven Devils in Idaho, but both ranges come close to topping out at 10,000′.  This puts the depth of Hells Canyon close to 8000′ deep.  State borders aside, Hells Canyon is just a series of canyons and folds in the landscape that run from the Continental Divide to the high plains of Eastern Oregon.  Most of that ruggedness is found in the Salmon River Mountains of Central Idaho.  The Salmon River has cut an impressive gorge through the denticulated granite of Central Idaho.  Finally the land takes a dramatic thrust upward between the Salmon and Snake Rivers and precipitously drops away towards Hells Canyon.  This doesn’t mark the end of the canyons.  The Imnaha River in Oregon along with it tributaries Horse Creek, Lightning Creek and Cow Creek have each carved impressive north-south canyons with the Wallowas and Hells Canyon as bookends.

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Afternoon Clouds over Imnaha Canyon

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Imnaha Canyon

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Imnaha Canyon Moonset

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As one might expect, the nature of canyons leads t0 steep roadways with hairpin turns.  First and second gear were commonly used to slowly descend the lofty reaches to the canyon bottoms.  Road conditions were good; all the road I traveled were graded though a little rough and definitely intimidating to any acrophobe.  I drove as far as Cow Creek and hiked a short distance along the Imnaha to the Snake.  The trail, though nice, was choked with brush and poison ivy so I didn’t hike too far.  Five Mile Viewpoint above the town of Imnaha is on the way to Hat Point.  Unfortunately Hat Point isn’t open for about another month due to snow pack on the road, but I was still able to access awesome views of the Imnaha Canyon and the snowcapped Wallowas.

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Wallowa Mountains over Imnaha Canyon

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Seven Devils from Zumwalt Road

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Once out of the canyon depths and upon the plains, I scouted for vantage points of the Wallowas and Seven Devils.  The Wallowas were visible from most everywhere since they rise about 6000’+ above the towns of Joseph and Enterprise.  Wallowa Lake is a large glacially carved lake sitting in a deep cirque.  The sunrise shoot was well worth the short amount of sleep.  I even had the bonus of the moon, still mostly full, setting over the Chief Joseph Mountain.  The clouds kept me from taking too many photos since they kept the moon obscured most of the time.

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Wallowa Lake Sunrise

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Homestead on Lightning Creek

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Imnaha Morning

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3 thoughts on “Imnaha Canyon and Wallowa Lake

  1. Wow!! Colors are beautiful . . .I am an acrophobe, so leave me out of Hells Canyon and Hurricane ridge!!!

    • Vicki,
      That can be the downside of an overlook for some: a steep drive to get there. I’ll try and handle the driving and show others who most likely won’t make it up there what the view is like!

  2. Outstanding work, Aaron! This country is so immense and grand, its hard to adequately capture it in photos…but you’ve managed. Definitely a soul-renewing part of the world. Thanks for your beautiful photography of this magical place.
    Cam Parry
    Hooked on Oregon

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