The Wallowa–Whitman National Forest is a United States National Forest in Oregon. Formed by a merger of the formerly separate Wallowa and Whitman national forests, it is located in the northeastern corner of the state, in Wallowa, Baker, Union, Grant, and Umatilla counties in Oregon, and includes small areas in Nez Perce and Idaho counties in Idaho. The forest is named for the Wallowa band of the Nez Perce, who originally lived in this area, and Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, Presbyterian missionaries who settled north of here in 1836. Forest headquarters are located in Baker City, Oregon.
The national forest may be divided into several distinct sections, which together cover 2,300,000 acres (9,300 km2) of land, including 600,000 acres (2,400 km2) of designated wilderness. A large section of the forest is located in the rugged Wallowa Mountains, south of Joseph, in the upper reaches of the Wallowa, Minam, and Imnaha drainages. The alpine area in the heart of the mountain range is designated as the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Bordering the national forest on the north, Wallowa Lake State Park is located on the shore of Wallowa Lake.
A smaller section of the forest is located north of Enterprise, along Joseph Canyon. This section is joined to the first by the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, which protects the stretch of the Snake River known as Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in North America. The recreation area includes portions of the Nez Perce, Payette, and Wallowa–Whitman national forests but is managed solely by the Wallowa–Whitman National Forest. It contains the Hells Canyon Wilderness, jointly managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The Hells Canyon Scenic Byway passes through the national forest on Forest Service Road 39.
The Wallowa–Whitman National Forest is home to 36 fish species, 236 bird species, over 90 mammal species, 26 reptile-amphibian species, and roughly 1,500 plant species. Wildlife habitat is affected by logging and grazing, but significant stands of old-growth forest have survived. A 1993 Forest Service study estimated that the extent of old growth in the Forest was 173,000 acres (70,000 ha). Large mammal species include Shiras moose, Rocky Mountain elk, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain goat, white-tailed deer, mule deer, black bear, grey wolf, cougar, and bobcat.
Several sightings of wolverines, rare within the United States, have been recorded since the 1990s. Smaller mammals include the pika, pine marten, badger, mink, beaver, river otter, and marmot. Bird species include the peregrine falcon, bald eagle, golden eagle, ferruginous hawk, goshawk, gray-crowned rosy finch, chukar partridge, pileated woodpecker, American dipper, and great gray owl. Rivers and creeks support steelhead and trout.
Plant communities range from low elevation grasslands and ponderosa pine forest to alpine meadows. Engelmann spruce, mountain hemlock, subalpine fir and whitebark pine can be found in the higher elevations, with Douglas-fir, white fir, western larch, and lodgepole pine elsewhere. Wildflowers include clarkia, Indian paintbrush, sego lily, elephanthead, larkspur, shooting star, and bluebell. Rocky bluffs in the Hells Canyon area support prickly pear cactus and poison ivy.
The Wallowa–Whitman National Forest is used for hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, and other recreational activities. Anthony Lakes Ski Area is located on National Forest land. The ski area is 40 miles (64 km) northwest of Baker City and 45 miles (72 km) southwest of La Grande. The ski area has groomed slopes for alpine skiing and snowboarding plus trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The forest also has many miles of trail specifically designated for snowmobile use.
The forest has 52 developed campgrounds plus 9 day-use picnic areas. Most campgrounds are open from May to October. The Forest Service also operates five rental cabins. Hikers have the choice of 66 trails, with vista points along many of the routes. There are also 26 interpretive sites. The national forest has seven areas where visitors can enjoy swimming, power boating, rafting, canoeing, and kayaking. There are numerous fishing streams, and hunting is allowed during specific seasons. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regulates hunting and fishing activities on Wallowa–Whitman forest land.
Some forest activities require permits. The type of permit and its cost depends on the specific recreational activity. For example, a Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking at some high-use trailheads. The cost is $30 for an annual pass or $5 for a day pass. The Forest Service uses the permit revenue for trail maintenance. Permits are also required for firewood cutting, Christmas tree harvesting, and mushroom gathering. A special permit is required to raft on the Snake River.
The forest is home to the annual Eagle Cap Dog Sled Race, a three-day race that qualifies winners for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. It is also home to the Wallowa Lake Tramway.
There are four officially designated wilderness areas within Wallowa-Whitman National Forest that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Three of these extend into neighboring National Forests or onto land that is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, as indicated.
- Eagle Cap Wilderness
- Hells Canyon Wilderness (partly in Nez Perce NF, Payette NF, or on BLM land)
- Monument Rock Wilderness (mostly in Malheur NF)
- North Fork John Day Wilderness (mostly in Umatilla NF)