Biz Buzz Offers News of Interest to Wallowa County Visitors

When reading this week’s issue of the Wallowa County Chieftain, I felt Kathleen’s entire Biz Buzz column might be of interest to byway travelers. So, we thank the Chieftain for allowing us to post the column in Byway News. If all of this doesn’t get you excited about visiting Wallowa County, then, well…you haven’t been to Wallowa County – yet!

Biz Buzz By Kathleen Ellyn, Wallowa County Chieftain

Updates on our local businesses are in order this week, with changes of business model, announcements of secured contracts and an exciting new business.

Photo by Grant Richie, Minam Store

First up is our change of business model. Some of you may have heard that the Minam Motel is no longer acting as a motel. It’s true. Owners Grant and Lottie Richie are reconfiguring their business and plan to expand their store and use some of the motel space to house their river guides.

The business is doing well with their Wine and Food trips, guided fly-fishing trips, chukar hunts, rafting trips and raft rentals and the Richies want to focus in that area.

Those “Wine and Food on the River” rafting trips on the Grande Ronde or Snake rivers have received high praise in the press. Richie works with Walla Walla-based Chef Andrae Bopp and serves Walla Walla wines provided by Heirlinger Winery, Bergevin Lane Vineyards, Kontos Cellars, Skylite Cellars and Solemn Cellars among others. Expect to pay $995 for a three-day excursion and $1,595 for a five day trip.

Other rafting trips include Grande Ronde River guided trips, white water guided Snake River Rafting through Hells Canyon and lower Salmon River guided trips.

Sad news for some of you, the Morel Trip in late May is already fully booked. Better luck next year.

Off-season trips include the “Cast and Blast” (fishing and chukar) trips in late fall.

The contract to continue operating the Wallowa Lake Marina went to (no surprise) Casey Barstad. Casey was the sole applicant, but his experience working with former contract holders, his parents, Gina and Bob Barstad, would have impressed in thick competition.

“He’s had a lot of experience and his bid and proposal was very, very detailed,” said Shawnae Stanton, park specialist for Wallowa Lake State Park. “He’s also been working with us in terms of what we’d like to see in the park in the future. We want to expand the dining area out front so that visitors can enjoy the lake view more.”

Casey’s folks have held that contract for 30 years.

“Casey grew up with the business. He’s been around it since he was six years old,” said Bob Barstad.

Photo courtesy of Jo Trolley

And finally, get ready for the newest tourism idea in Joseph — the Joseph Trolley, touted as providing “The World’s Longest Trolley Tour.”

The trolley rolls out on its Grand Opening Tour, May 31. That tour is a live, narrated, three-hour drive to Joseph Creek Canyon for a total of 101 miles round trip with camera stops along the way and half hour at the scenic overlook.

Another, even longer four and one half hour tour to Buckhorn Springs Canyon is planned for the future. You’re advised that 63 miles of the Buckhorn Springs tour is on gravel and will be bumpy. Might want to take an extra cushion for that one. The trolley is wheelchair accessible for up to two wheelchair guests.

Prices are very reasonable: $30 adult on the Joseph Creek Canyon Tour with a senior discount of $5 available; lap riders 0-2 free; guests ages 3-11 $15. There are group rates and opportunities to book the whole trolley for your special event. You’ll want to check out all of the offerings on the Jo Trolley web page.  

P.S. some other big news was brewing at press time but not finalized. Stay tuned.

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