The area has an enriched history dating back to the days when Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce inhabited the land. After the gold rush occurred (ultimately populating the wallowas), the government took back most of its land from the tribe. Angered by this action, some of the Nez Perce retaliated by slaying some whites nearby. This turned into a long battle between the two forces. Chief Joseph and his followers eventually surrendered, but were never able to return to the Wallowa Valley. A tribute to Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce is present all throughout Wallowa Lake and its surroundings. It is still marked as one of the most influential struggles between native tribes and the injustice of the United States government.
Flora and fauna
The area outside of town around Wallowa Lake is surrounded by true beauty. Various animals inhabit the area, but the most amazing sight to see is the large amount of does and bucks the Wallowas has. Chipmunks surround the landscape, and are famous for their grabby little hands and big cheeks on top of Mount Howard. The mountain located next to the lake is great place for sight seeing and be able to feed the chipmunks.
The lake is also surrounded by many pines. One pine in particular was found in the surrounding Wallowa Mountains. Pinus contorta, 'Chief Joseph', is a dwarf pine that is very rare and is known for its drastic change from green in the summer to bright gold in the winter time.
There is a great variance in the weather. During the summer months of July and August the average temp is in thet mid 70s. Thunderstorms are very standard in the spring and summer. During the winter months, the temperature dips into the 30s on average. The best time to visit is in the summer time, this is when water sports are at their best and the Wallowa tram is up and running.
The easiest way to get to Joseph is along highway 82 east from La Grande, Oregon. Be prepared as this is a small two-lane highway with limited shoulder area and often has construction work in progress. It is about 72 miles from La Grande to Joseph so make sure you fuel up before leaving. There is also a local small airport with a 5,000 long runway about 1 mile west of Joseph.
In a quaint town like Joseph the primary means of transport is your own vehicle. Do not expect any form of public transportation here. Do not be surprised to see horses tied to a rail along the main streeet, the old west still lives on in Joseph.
Joseph itself is a mixed little town, part modern west farm town and part old west. The buildings are a mix of both, often within the same block. Due to its proximity to so many wilderness areas it serves as a local replenishment station. The Joseph city managers have seen fit to erect a small kiosk about the middle of Main Street to provide weary tourists with all the information they could ask for. The best way to learn about Joseph is to get out along Main Street and walk. It is through walking that you will discover all of the little curiosity shops tucked along Main Street and the characters they contain within.
- Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.
- Wallowa State Park. Wallowa State Park is located on the south side of Wallowa Lake, which is known for its calm water and gorgeous sites. Surrounded by mountains the lake is quiet and secluded. Wallowa Lake is approximately 5 miles long and 1 mile wide (8 km by 1.6 km). The depth of the lake reaches 283 feet (86 m).
- Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
- Eagle Cap Wilderness.
- Wallowa County Museum, 110 South Main St. 10AM-4PM daily. Gives a detailed history of the Wallowas and the Nez Perce. Adults $4, Seniors (age 65+) $3, Students (ages 7-17) $2, Children (age 6 and under) free..
- Chief Joseph Days. Usually the last week of July, town festivities occur, parades, rodeos, and reenactments of the famous Joseph bank robbery.
- Joe's Place Pizza & Bumper Boats. Located right across the street from the Wallowa Lake Lodge, this fun center offers bumper boats, mini golf, croquet, an arcade, pizza, and an ice cream shop.
- Parasailing. During the summer months parasailing is offered during the day if the wind is cooperating. This is an adventure but a great way to get a nice view of the lake.
- Scenic Meadows Go Carts. Enjoyable for the whole family just up the road from the state park. Nice track with other activities there as well.
- Wallowa Lake Tramway. The tram operates June through September, and is located on the south side of the lake. The tram takes you to the top of Mount Howard where many hiking trails are located. The view is amazing and it is a great way to spend the day, hiking, eating at the Summit Grill, and feeding all the chipmunks.
- Mad Mary's, 5 S. Main St. Gift shop is filled with many different themed rooms and has a wide variety of items.
- Matterhorn Swiss Village, 59950 Wallowa Lake Hwy. Located on the south side of Wallowa Lake. Wonderful gift shop; sells clothing, jewelry, miscellaneous items, coffee, and ice cream.
- Glacier Grill, 72784 Marina Ln. Open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with indoor and patio seating. Wide variety of menu items including vegetarian in a family friendly environment. Local and Regional Brews on Tap, Wine Room, Full Bar.
- Mountain Air Cafe, 4 S. Main St. Homestyle cooking
- Old Town Cafe, 8 S. Main St. Espresso drinks,Whiskey Bread Pudding, and more!
- Outlaw Restaurant & Saloon, 108 N. Main St. Steak to Hamburgers
- Russell's at the Lake, 59984 Wallowa Lake Hwy. American cuisine. Great place to take the whole family.
- Summit Grill. Located on the top of Mount Howard. Great place to stop in for lunch.
- Vali's Alpine Delicatessen, 59811 Wallowa Lake Highway. Hungarian cuisine. Reservations only. Only serves one entree a night.
- Wallowa Lake Lodge, 60060 Wallowa Lake Highway. Serves Breakfast and Dinner. Gourmet American cuisine.
- Shooters Sports Bar, 101 S. Main St. Cocktails, Pool, Darts, and Widescreen TV
- Eagle Cap Chalets, 59879 Wallowa Lake Highway.
- Flying Arrow Resort, 59782 Wallowa Lake Highway.
- Indian Lodge Motel, 201 South Main St, ☎ , toll-free: .
- Mountain View Motel & RV Park, 83450 Joseph Highway.
- Wallowa Lake Lodge, 60060 Wallowa Lake Highway.
- Wallowa Lake Resort, 84681 Ponderosa Ln.
- Wallowa Lake State Park.
- Scenic Meadows RV Park.