A TRAIL THAT WILL BUILD COMMUNITY
The Joseph Branch, now known as the Wallowa Union Railroad, is 63 miles long and connects Elgin in Union County with Joseph in Wallowa County. The railroad follows the canyons of the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers and emerges into the verdent, mountain hemmed Wallowa Valley. During the early part of the 20th Century, this rail line hauled lumber, grain, and livestock, as well as passengers.
In 1997, this line was abandoned. In 2002, the counties of Wallowa and Union purchased the rail line for future economic development potential to this rural region. In 2003, abandonment status was nullified when the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority (WURA) was formed by the 2 counties to own and operate the line. In concert with an excursion train and railrider service, WURA has approved the concept and feasibility study for a 63 mile trail along this line. And the first 6 miles, between Joseph and Enterprise will be the first segment constructed.
Dramatic Mountain Views
Wallowa and Union counties are separated by the Wallowa Mountains, one of Oregon’s Seven Wonders.The proposed rail-with-trail provides dramatic views of the mountains and the verdant Wallowa Valley.
Visit the Wallowa and Union County Chamber of Commerce websites for information about things to do in the two counties.
Connecting Two Parks
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is lending staff support to the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority and Eastern Oregon University in working with interested citizens and organizations in studying the feasibility of developing a rail-with-trail along the Joseph Branch Railroad right-of-way. Parks and Recreation Department staff members collected baseline data about road bed conditions as a first step in the trail feasibility study expected to be completed in January 2016. The trail if built will run from Elgin to Joseph, passing through the Minam State Recreation Area.
Access Rivers and More
The proposed rail-with-trail follows the Joseph Branch rail bed beside the Grande Ronde and Wallowa rivers. Access to the rivers will be made more accessible for fishing and other recreational opportunities if a trail is constructed. The Friends of the Joseph Branch operate The Eagle Cap Excursion Train between Elgin and Minam.