1859’s Trip Planners are your source for exploring the great state of Oregon. Whether you are a local looking for a weekend family getaway or just visiting, each article is an insider’s guide to the best trips in Oregon.
Early emigrants scurrying toward the Willamette Valley on the Oregon Trail barely gave the Grande Ronde Valley a nod. By the 1860s, the enchanted valley—ringed by the Wallowa and Blue mountains and rivers running through it—called out to settlers. There was gold in the hills, decent soil and water for farming. Settling here meant no more arduous mountain crossings or rafting down treacherous rivers. Some stayed to build a thriving hub between Portland and Boise, initially dubbed Brownsville but incorporated as La Grande in 1865 after city leaders learned another town had already claimed the name.