UPDATED ON June 29, 2015: It’s that time of year again when our bed and breakfast guests ask, “Is the road open between Joseph and Halfway?” The answer for Summer and Fall 2015 is both yes and no because there is road construction on a portion of the road. There is also a construction bypass that, as of June 10, 2015, is clear of snow and open for cars (not recommended for motorhomes). However, as of June 29th, this hypass is no longer absolutely necessary. Let’s break it down into smaller questions:
- Can I get from Joseph to the Hells Canyon Overlook? Yes. The paved road is open and access isn’t affected by the construction on Forest Service Road 39.
- When can I drive past the Hells Canyon Overlook and continue towards Copperfield/Oxbow and Halfway on the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway? UPDATED INFORMATION: As of June 29 through October 15, 2015, the road will be open; however, travelers should expect up to one-hour delays. There is no longer a need to detour around the construction (see next question) unless you prefer a more scenic (and longer) gravel route.
- What about the detour to avoid the construction zone? The detour is a well-maintained, 30 mile long, gravel road called Forest Service Road 66, and connects FSR 39 with the town of Halfway (located on OR Highway 86) via Baker County Road 999. Depending on what map you’re using, this road is also known as “Duck Creek Road”, “Fish Lake Road”, “Twin Lakes Road” or “Clear Creek Road” (no wonder people get lost in Oregon!) The road is suitable for vehicles pulling trailers, but not recommended for motorhomes.
- When can I drive to Hat Point Lookout? The paved road from Joseph to Imnaha (OR Highway 350) connects to the 26-mile gravel Hat Point Road and neither one is affected by the construction. In 2015, the gravel road was freshly graded and our bed & breakfast guests have reported the road is in great condition. It is not recommended for motorcycles unless they are off-road bikes. However, the drive to Imnaha is paved and worth the trip to the Imnaha Tavern.
- If I want to take a jetboat trip with Hells Canyon Adventures, will I be affected by the road construction? Perhaps, depending upon how you plan to get to the launch site at the Hells Canyon Dam. If you plan to travel from Joseph to the Hells Canyon Dam, then yes you will. If you plan to travel from Baker City, Oregon, or anywhere in Idaho, then you will not be affected.
- Is there any gasoline along the way? No. The last gas stations are in Joseph and in Copperfield/Oxbow and in Halfway. Note that these are not 24-hour gas stations and, because they are in rural locations, close fairly early in the evenings.
- Is there cellphone service along the way? Pretty much no.
- Where can I see a map that explains all of this? The best map we’ve found is a two-page PDF file available from the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce. Please click on the link: Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce FSR39 map to view the map. It is oversized and probably won’t print properly on 8 1/2″ x 11″ (letter-sized) paper, but you can download it to your computer or digital device for easy reference.
- Who can I call for more information? Monday through Friday during working hours, contact the Forest Service Wallowa Mountains Office at 541-426-5546 or Pine Field Office at 541-742-7511.