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2014 Is the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway Forest Road 39 open yet?

US Forest Service image of the Hells Canyon Scenic BywayIt seems like every year in May we hear variations on the same question:

Is the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road open yet?

Is the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway open yet?

Is Forest Road 39 or FR39 or Highway 39 open yet?

For 2014, it’s going to be a little difficult to answer because there’s already major reconstruction of this beloved road going on and it will continue through October 2014.  Fortunately for us all, the Wallowa-Whitman Office of the US Forest Service has a page on their website with press releases on the road’s status.  You’ll find the latest information at this link.  If you have difficulty visualizing exactly where the construction is taking place and where the detour routes are, take a look at the map on this PDF file.

Here’s a synopsis from the May 1, 2014, press release:

Spring 2014: Construction work on the 13-mile North Pine section of FSR 39 has begun and this section of the road will be closed until June 15, which will begin the next phase of the construction, roadway excavation (see next bullet).
June 16, 2014 to June 30 2014: The 13-mile North Pine section of FSR 39 will be closed beginning at 8:00 am every Tuesday morning through 5:00 pm every Thursday evening 6/16/14 – 6/30/14. The road will be open at 5:01 pm every Thursday evening through 7:59 am every Tuesday morning for travel 6/16/14 – 6/30/14. However, it’s important to note that the road surface will be rough as it is still under construction during these open periods.
July 1, 2014 to October 15, 2014: Visitors can expect up to one hour delays on the 13-mile North Pine section of FSR 39 or use the detour. Construction activities will be on-going, so please drive responsibility through the construction zone (see detour route information below beginning July 1, 2014).

Detour Route Information: Forest Service Road (FSR) 66 will be available for use as the detour route depending on snow levels. FSR 66 begins at the junction of FSR 39 and FSR 66 (also referred to as Duck Creek, Fish Lake Road, Twin Lakes Road, or Clear Creek Road) and continues west then south before connecting with Baker County Road 999, just north of Halfway. The detour route is 30 miles in length and is a single-lane gravel road with turnouts. The route is suitable for vehicles with trailers; however it is not recommended for motor homes. Visitors should be aware that the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road and FSR 66 are often closed by snow from late October through late June, and are not passable by automobiles during this time period. Both FSR 66 and FSR 39 are snowmobile routes.

Bottom line:  If you’re planning to drive center section of the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway in 2014, you’ll need patience.  This is particularly important for guests going to/from Hells Canyon Adventures jetboats at the Hells Canyon Dam and for guests coming from Idaho on the back way.  If you’re a motorcyclist, watch the press releases.  Much of the detour route involves gravel roads.

CNN Travel Recognizes Hells Canyon

Jet Boat on Hells Canyon originally produced by Kyle Hill of the Lewiston Tribune

Jet Boat on Hells Canyon originally produced by Kyle Hill of the Lewiston Tribune

If you’re planning your spring and summer travel schedule, here’s a great article from CNN Travel about the tallest, deepest, longest, etc., record-setting places in the United States to visit.  Feature writer Helyn Trickey Bradley has come up with 10 superlative sights for US travel.  Two are in Oregon.  And one is right here in Wallowa County!  She writes:

The Grand Canyon in Arizona may be immense, boasting nearly 277 river miles in length, but for sheer depth, Hells Canyon in eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and western Idaho wins hands-down. . .read more from this article

Helyn suggests a trip to Hat Point Lookout, the highest point on the Oregon side where you can look down deep into Hells Canyon and see the rapids at the bottom.  We also know that you have a fine view of He Devil, the highest point of Hells Canyon on the Idaho side and the reason that Hells Canyon is the deepest canyon in the US.  As one of the Seven Devil Mountains, you feel you can almost reach out and touch them when you’re up there.  We try to get up to Hat Point every now and then and have written some blog posts about it before.

The getting to Hat Point isn’t dangerous, but it is a bit more than some people bargain for.  From Joseph, the drive is 26 miles of pavement to to the little town of Imnaha, followed by 26 miles of dirt road to the Hat Point Lookout.  Ask a local and they’ll tell you the first 5 miles of that 26 mile dirt road can be a little unnerving, but once you’re through that it’s home free all the way to the lookout.  Of course, you’ll have to come back the same way you went.  Best to leave the low slung city car at home.

Might you need some local advice when planning this Eastern Oregon vacation trip?  Give us a call here at the Bronze Antler Bed & Breakfast in Joseph.  We’re along the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway and are one of the closer Hells Canyon lodging locations for a trip to Hat Point.  And a resource for maps, guides, and other things to take along for your trip to Hells Canyon.  See you soon!

 

 

 

 

Wow! Travel Oregon and the Wallowas

Videos and other materials are just starting to roll out about the Seven Wonders of Oregon, a new campaign hosted by Travel Oregon to introduce some remarkable places in our gorgeous state.  The Wallowa Mountains of Eastern Oregon and the surrounding area were lucky (and naturally) chosen to be one of those.  Here’s Travel Oregon’s video about the Wallowas.  She’s not named, but our friend Alice is the rider seen in the footage:

Great teaser footage for the town of Joseph Oregon too!  The featured brewery is our own Mutiny Brewing Company (great beer in a lovely summer outdoor setting looking at these same mountains).  Alice rides the Wallowa Lake Tramway to the top of Mount Howard (wonder if she fed the squirrels while she was there?).  And the vista shot at the end?  Looks to me like the Hat Point Overlook of Hells Canyon.

Blue Camas flowers in Spring on The Zumwalt Prairie of Wallowa County Eastern Oregon

Blue Camas flowers in Spring on the Zumwalt Prairie of Wallowa County Eastern Oregon

All this and a whole lot more that didn’t make the video.  If you need a little help with your trip planning, give us a call here at our Eastern Oregon Bed and Breakfast and we’ll be happy to help you out.

That’s what a teaser is all about–there’s just enough in the video to get your travel juices flowing.  Time to start planning for that summertime Eastern Oregon Vacation!

Hells Canyon Scenic Byway: A Video You Won’t Want to Miss

Never traveled on the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway?  Here’s a really good taste of what you can experience.  The Oregon Department of Transportation film crew came through a little while ago and shot a lot of footage to create this comprehensive video about the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway.  What’s nice about this particular video is you’ll see the byway in all seasons.

It’s a little bit lengthy at 8 minutes, but it really takes that long to see the scenery and some of the sights along the way.  I’m thrilled they included a scene from the Wallowa Valley Festival of Arts (3:58), our juried fine art show that takes place every first weekend of June here in Joseph Oregon.  And there are scenes from Hells Canyon Mule Days (3:04) that takes place every weekend after Labor Day in September in Enterprise Oregon (the weekend after the first Monday of September).  You’ll even have quick view of one of your Bronze Antler Bed and Breakfast innkeepers in the introduction (0:57)–it’s amazing what sorts of things I get roped into doing for our area!

Harle Butte Lookout is one of the historic lookouts a bit off the beaten path

Harle Butte Lookout is one of the historic lookouts a bit off the beaten path

You’ll find other posts on our Bronze Antler blog about things you can see along the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway–just look for the “Hells Canyon” (without the quotes) category in the margin around the blog and a list of Hells Canyon-related blog posts will appear.  This image is of Harle Butte, one of the historic staffed fire lookouts along the rim of Hells Canyon.  It’s at the end of a dirt road leading from the byway and a fabulous view (recommended for trucks and other higher clearance vehicles).

Just a reminder:  the center section of the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway (Forest Road 39 or the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road) is seasonal–it usually closes in early November and doesn’t open again until May or June depending upon snowpack.  If you’re planning to drive the entire Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, check in with the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Office at (541) 426-4978 or 426-5546 or by visiting their website

And be sure to call us to see about your Hells Canyon lodging while you’re on your trip.  Our phone is (541) 432-0230 or visit our website for more information.

See you along the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway!