The American West or What I Did on Summer Vacation – Joseph, OR

On our trip west, we just couldn’t miss Joseph, OR.  This was our third time visiting Joseph which is located in the northwest corner of Oregon near Hells Canyon.  Hells Canyon on the border between Idaho and Oregon is the deepest river gorge in the U.S. dug by the Snake River as it makes it way to the Tetons.  I rafted the Snake River once years ago on a visit to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  I didn’t fall out of the raft, but I kissed the ground when we were able to get out.  But that is another story from another life.

Joseph, OR. is a small town which has revived itself by drawing to it fine artists.  My brother, Greg, lives in a small town in northern Illinois which is struggling to keep its school.  We have talked about what can be done to keep the town viable, keep families with children moving in rather than moving out.  As the farms get bigger and bigger and less and less family owned, these “farming” towns find it harder and harder to support a local school district.  Joseph is, I believe, a success story.


DSC02861First thing you encounter as you come into town is a sign claiming Joseph is a little bit of heaven on earth. And they are right!  We parked the RV with our 6 pets inside, AC running, in front of the Joseph P.O., taking up as usual 3 car spaces.  We were thankful for this convenient parking just off the main drag and no one seemed to mind, parking their cars all around us to make their quick trips into the P.O.  Thank you Joseph for being so considerate of our massive presence.

The artists who populate this town have shops stretched along the one main DSC02853street.  The Trading Company is our favorite shop with beautiful jewelry and Native art.   The shops in this one area surround a center garden and include a fly fishing shop, collectibles shop, a kayak rental, and a quilt shop, among others.  Note the fine Indian blankets displayed on far left of the photo.


Flowers and gardens are everywhere throughout the town and at every corner there are LARGE metal sculptures of animals or people.  Some are simple, some are more complex.

DSC02855   DSC02854

This Dragon greeted us at the door to toZion which turned out to be a wonderful shop with International goods and a plethora of products like meditation cushions, wind chimes, singing bowls, wooden bowls, etc.  Fun!DSC02856  DSC02857

This mountain lion stands guard in front of the toZion shop (as if the dragon isn’t enough).   Next door we found a lovely outside beer garden for lunch.

DSC02858   DSC02859

The Embers Brew House claims to have the largest selection in Eastern Oregon of micro-brews, and it may be true.  Not only do they have a large selection, but the beers have great names like Worthy Stout and Terminal Gravity….which is probably translated “I’ve had one too many and now I can’t stand up, because gravity is holding me down.”  I tried the Alaskan Amber, which was orangy and good on a hot day, mostly because I’d already tried Moose Drool in Ingersol.

DSC02866  DSC02860

The view from our table was fabulous.  The Wallowa Mountains in the near and far distance separate Joseph from Hells Canyon.  We ended up not going over these mountains this trip, but in previous trips we enjoy the magnificent views in the mountains and of Hells Canyon…well worth the longer trail.



In some ways, Joseph is an old west town with buildings dating back to the mid-19th Century.  They are well kept up and beautifully appointed and it was a pleasure just to be in the environs of this quaint village.  The 100+ degree F. heat dampened our spirits only a little.  The locals claimed that thel long stretch hot weather like they had last summer is VERY unusual.  The altitude seemed to make very little difference in the temperatures: over 100 degrees during the day and in the high 70s at night.  NOT good sleeping weather.

DSC02879   DSC02878


Across from the beer garden, we found this Native Spearfisher, just across the sidewalk from his prey, the majestic salmon.  These statues are fabulous.  Often life size (or just about) and meticulous in their detail.  We can also see that the birds love to sit on and poop on statues here as elsewhere.  The sculptures are not, however, laden with thick white crud, but only occasionally there is a little.  In an area that is high desert without much rain, this lack of poop is noticeable. Ford Joseph have a Joseph Bird Poop Cleaning Committee.

DSC02867  DSC02868

I just love the public art in Joseph.  This costly project makes this out-of-the-way small town unique and beautiful.  And some of it is even for sale, should anyone need a life-sized sculpture for their private garden.

Joseph, Oregon is a great go-to destination or a wonderful stop-by place when on your way to the west coast.  Joseph doesn’t have a campground, but there is a very nice campground (Log House Park and Campground) with free WiFi and resident deer and quail coming and going, in Enterprise, OR about 7 miles north of Joseph.  If you are on a tight schedule, you can probably cover the main street and have lunch in 3-5 hours and be on your way.  It is certainly worth the stop.



About Sally Cissna

Sally Cissna has been an engineer, an educator, and a minister. She believes in freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and the freedom of retirement.
This entry was posted in Travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The American West or What I Did on Summer Vacation – Joseph, OR

  1. Wow, I’d like to visit there! I love reading about your travel adventures!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s