Wallowa Lake is the payoff at the end of a long journey for many visitors to this isolated corner of Oregon. Its spectacular beauty is the iconic image that immediately says "Wallowa County."ormed by glaciers some nine million years ago, its setting is sometimes cited by geologists as one of the most perfect example of glacial moraines in the world.
Wallowa Lake -- five miles long, a mile deep and 283 feet deep - Wallowa Lake is the highest large lake in eastern Oregon at an elevation of 4,441.
The foot - or north end - of the lake is only two miles from Joseph, and sports a launching area for boats, small park and swimming area. The annual fireworks display after dark on the Fourth of July draws thousands here to top off the holiday.
Near the foot of the lake are the historic monument that marks Old Chief Joseph's grave and the newly-dedicated Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site, a day-use area added to the Oregon State Parks system in 2009.
The head of Wallowa Lake just six miles south of Joseph houses an unincorporated resort community that comes alive during the summer months when it plays hosts to a goodly share of the county's visitors.
The biggest single visitor destination in Wallowa County is Wallowa Lake State Park, which draws tens of thousands of campers every year. While not designed for those who are looking for a wilderness experience, the state park is perfect for families and RV-ers who appreciate a range of amenities with their outdoors experience. The park has 121 full hookups, 89 tent spots one cabin, two yurts and a group tent site, and offers hot showers, a playground, marina and interpretive programs in the middle of a resort area full of activities. Reservations are strongly advised and should be obtained far in advance for busy summer weekends.
The state park day use area sports picnic tables, barbecues, a swimming area and a marina with boats of all kinds for rent, as well as fishing supplies.
Not far from the state park is a world-class visitor attraction - the Wallowa Lake Tramway. It offers a breath-taking gondola ride up the side of Mount Howard - the steepest in North America - carrying passengers up 3,700 feet to the mountains summit at 8,200 feet. There's a small restaurant on top and many miles of trails to explore and an awe-inspiring of the lake and valley below, as well as 26 mountain peaks.
Many groups congregate during the summer for group camp activities at the United Methodist campground, which hosts Fishtrap Gathering writers conference, as well as a variety of youth camps.
The Wallowa Lake resort offers all types of lodging - from historic Wallowa Lake Lodge and rustic cabins to modern condo-type accommodations - and a wide variety of eating options -- from Hungarian fare and seafood dinners to hamburgers and pizza.
Families will find many activities that appeal to children, including horseback riding, paddle boats, bumper boats, miniature golf and go-carts. There's also a variety of gift shops to explore.
Hiking is also a favorite family past-time, and at the very end of the Wallowa Lake highway is one of the county's many trail heads into the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon's largest wilderness areas.
Because of its end-of-the-road setting, Wallowa Lake is not a place visitors stop by on the way to anyplace else, but a final destination for a vacation to remember.