Bureau of Land Management National Park Service U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service U.S. Forest Service

Joseph Creek, Oregon

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Managing Agency:

U.S. Forest Service, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest


Designated Reach:

October 28, 1988. From Joseph Creek Ranch, one mile downstream from Cougar Creek, to the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest boundary.


Classification/Mileage:

Wild — 8.6 miles; Total — 8.6 miles.

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Joseph Creek

Located in northeast Oregon, Joseph Creek's outstandingly remarkable values include scenery, recreation, geology, fish, wildlife and history. The spectacular natural setting, ruggedness, inaccessibility and steep topography of Joseph Creek and the surrounding environs of Joseph Canyon create a lasting impression on those who view it. The river corridor provides a spectacular example of the steep, rimrock-exposed canyons found in northeast Oregon.

Access to Joseph Canyon and Joseph Creek is limited due to remoteness, steep and rugged terrain and climatic conditions. Hiking, horsepacking, bird watching, wildlife viewing, fishing and big game hunting can be enjoyed in a solitary manner.

The canyon contains textbook-perfect examples of northeast Oregon geology, typified by Columbia River basalt canyons exposed by downcutting of rivers. The 2,000-foot-deep canyon is virtually unmodified and its spectacular details, such as steep sideslopes, basalt layers and dikes, can be easily viewed from the canyon rim.

Joseph Creek is an important wild steelhead and wild rainbow trout fishery. Wildlife includes bighorn sheep, deer, elk, black bear, river otter and cougar.

The canyon and the surrounding area play a vital role in Nez Perce Tribal history. Most important is the proximity of the river corridor to the winter gathering place for Chief Joseph and his band at the mouth of Joseph Creek.