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Grande Ronde Valley and Vicinity

The Grande Ronde Valley is located in the northeast corner of Oregon not far from the Idaho border. Geologically it is part of the Columbia River Plateau. The valley is 35 miles (56 km) long and is drained by the river of the same name. Unlike other Oregon valleys, the Grande Ronde struggled to support agriculture due to large swaths being swampy and the soil highly alkaline. Its growth stemmed largely from its location along the Oregon Trail, a 2,000 mile overland route which connected Independence, Missouri, with Oregon City in the Willamette Valley. During the nineteenth century, this was the primary way for European-American emigrants to reach the Pacific Northwest and many communities popped up in the valley to service this steady stream of pioneers. Native Americans also occupied the area for thousands of years and still have jurisdiction over large areas as part of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Population growth was further stimulated by the discovery of gold in the 1860s which resulted in numerous mines located in the surrounding foothills. The town of La Grande is the largest community in the valley and other important features include the nearby Blue Mountains and Eagle Cap Wilderness Area.

  • Following the Lewis and Clark expedition, Americans began flocking to the Pacific Northwest over a 2,000 mile route called the Oregon Trail. The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center provides educational resources for all ages about this important part of American history with details on how emigrants survived nature and an often inhospitable landscape.

  • The Missing Tree

    Category: Way Find It

    Known as "The Lone Tree" to trappers and pioneers, this now-missing conifer was once a beacon to those using the Oregon Trail. Can you find where it once stood?

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