The Itwetemlaykin State Heritage Site, near Wallowa Lake, Oregon

The towns of Enterprise and Joseph Oregon are small and charming — and during our two days there, Jer and I spent very little time in either.

For me, the best  hike we took was at the north end of  Wallowa lake, at the relatively new (1999) Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site.

It’s a lovely spot, centered around a small pond with the Wallowa mountains standing guard in the distance. It had small knolls to wander around, with autumnal grasses and stands of trees to relax into.

I read that the Nez Perce had a sacred ponderosa in Montana; at least one that I saw in this park felt special to me.

We also checked out  Chief Joseph the Elder’s (Tu-eka-kas’s) grave site. He was the father of the more famous leader of the exiled group. Tu-eka-kas converted to Christianity when missionaries came to the Nez Perce region, but when he was betrayed by the whites who took over his land, he tore up his Bible and returned to the Wallowa Valley to die. His remains are memorialized by a stone pillar, which was laden with tributes to him, everything from feathers tied to the small tree that sheltered it to flowers and a fresh tomato.

After our meditative walk, we drove on to the much touristed Wallowa Lake. There, in the Wallowa River, I saw my first spawning salmon, the kokanee, once ocean-going, now landlocked. The most visible and photogenic ones I saw were the males, bright red, with enormous hooked jaws. I must have taken 50 random photos of various groups of them,  moving upstream through the fast moving, rippling water. This might be the best photo, although I’ve saved at least 10 more.

Although our northeast Oregon adventures took place last weekend, our next road adventures south toward Arizona have not been so picturesque. So I can continue to show the Wallowa region, with photos from our tram experience. Looking at those photos still gives me a bit of frisson.  But I loved it, of course. –June

Here’s the text of the sign from the little park, the Iwetemlaykin Heritage Site, that gave us so much pleasure.

Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site:  Welcome

Iwetemlaykin is Nez Perce for “at the edge of the lake.” It is pronounced ee-weh-TEMM-lye-kinn and the Nez Perce spelling is ‘Iwete-mlaykin. This site is part of the ancestral homeland of the Nimipuu (Nez Perce) and is considered sacred land. As you enjoy this special place, please be respectful. Take a moment to reflect n the importance of this land to the people who have lived here since time immemorial.

The map on the sign includes both the trail and the site of the Old Chief Joseph Gravesite (a National Park Service site) a little ways along the road toward the lake.

For the brochure of the park, you can download a pdf file from this site.

This entry was posted in Chief Joseph the Elder, eastern Oregon, Kokanee Salmon, northeast Oregon, Travels, Wallowa Lake and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Itwetemlaykin State Heritage Site, near Wallowa Lake, Oregon

  1. June says:


    Chief Joseph the younger reminds me a bit of President Obama — trying to stay quite steady, compassionate, and strong in the face of hideous situations. I hope he (Obama) has better luck than Joseph. Both are amazing men.

    I’m not generally superstitious, but I felt a great calming presence in the area, particularly in the park and on the butte where I painted from. Something of that spirit still resides there.



  2. Carla says:

    These are gorgeous pictures of some of my favorite spots in northeastern Oregon. I must reiterate what Terry said above. Chief Joesph is one of my favorite historical figures. Going to Itewetemlaykin State Heritage Site gave me more appreciation of the trials and trails of of Old Chief Joseph for whom the town is named and his son the more famous Chief Joseph.


  3. Heather says:

    Thanks for such lovely photos of our new park adjacent to the town of Joseph. It was dedicated in September 2009 and restoration work on the vegetation continues. It’s thrilling to have such a beautiful place so easily accessible.


  4. Terry Grant says:

    I love that country. Reminds me so much of Idaho and where I grew up. We studied Chief Joseph, the younger, as part of Idaho History in elementary school and he was always presented as a great leader and a man of great dignity. We were required to memorize his surrender speech, which ended, “Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever. ” It gave me chills as a child and still does.


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