This page will keep you informed of byway road conditions related to weather, construction projects or other human-caused activities. For additional weather related road conditions, please go to www.tripcheck.com or www.fs.usda.gov/wallowa-whitman for the most up-to-date information. The communities and businesses along the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway want travelers to know they are open for business and happy to serve you all year (even when winter snow closes the mountain pass).
The Forest Service Road 39 is open and passable by passenger vehicles, and is maintained by the Wallowa Whitman National Forest until snow forces its closure for the winter. Please use caution and watch for rocks and debris in the road. Also be on the lookout for wildlife and livestock in or along the road. This is the section of mountain road that connects Halfway, the Snake River and Pine Valley with Joseph, Enterprise, Wallowa Lake and the Wallowa Valley. Although the FS 39 road closes through winter every year, all communities along the byway are open year-round for business and can be accessed by Oregon State Route 82 to Joseph, via La Grande, and Oregon State Route 86 to Halfway, via Baker City. Enjoy dramatic landscapes, beautiful scenery and byway hospitality any time of year!
Summer and fall are busy times for repairing and upgrading the roads and highways along the byway. Several projects will be underway, including the following:
OR82 Minam curve and bank stabilization project
MINAM, Ore. – In August 2018, crews working for Tidewater Contractors, Inc. and their subcontractors began work on the Oregon Department of Transportation’s two-year OR82: Minam Curve and Bank Stabilization Project. The company has until fall 2019 to complete the work.
The Minam Grade is a steep and winding section of road that connects Elgin in the northwest side of the byway with Wallowa, in the Wallowa Valley. The Minam curve correction portion of the project is a 1500′ long highway realignment that will eliminate the 25 mph hairpin curve at mile post 30.84 that has been a historical accident location. The realignment moves the roadway into the hill by as much as 300+ feet from the existing alignment. The slope stabilization portion of the project repairs a road shoulder failure near mile post 32.58.
Travelers can expect crews, trucks/equipment in the area with flaggers and pilot cars controlling traffic. Blasting to cut through the rock face for the new alignment is expected to begin late August or early September and continue at intervals through the summer and fall. Traffic delays to accommodate construction and blasting activities should be less than twenty minutes long and motorists are advised to plan extra time when moving through this area. The project will greatly improve safety and help protect the highway from erosion related damage where the highway runs adjacent to the river.
For more information contact ODOT Public Information Officer Tom Strandberg at (541) 963-1330, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information about this and other eastern Oregon ODOT projects is available at www.tinyurl.com/odot-region5 .
Located 21 miles downstream of Oxbow Dam, Idaho Power’s Hells Canyon Dam began generating electricity in 1967 and has a nameplate generating capacity of 391,500 kilowatts.
The FS39 Road, which crosses a section of the Wallowa Mountains and connects Halfway and the Pine Valley with Joseph, Enterprise and the Wallowa Valley is closed during the winter and spring, generally December through May, due to snow. During this time, It is open to travel by snowmobile, only.
However, the rest of the byway and all byway communities are open for business, offering full visitor services. Winter is a gorgeous time throughout the byway, providing an entirely different experience for visitors. Please use the links above for up-to-date information on all roads and be prepared for winter driving conditions throughout byway country. Find lodging, dining, entertainment and shopping information on the Visitor Resources page. Even when spring weather begins to melt the snow at lower elevations, FS39 can remain closed through May. Be prepared for winter travel conditions and check with local officials before using FS39.
During the fire season, please check for details on fire activity in Northeast Oregon at the Blue Mountain Fire Information blog. More information on the Public Use Restrictions can be found at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/PURS.
Please be aware of the extreme hazard for wild fires late summer through early fall. Vehicles can start fires simply by parking off pavement or gravel, where hot equipment comes into contact with the dry grass and weeds. Be very cautious and follow these restrictions with care:
Phase C (indicators are Adjective fire danger rating of Extreme; IFPL level IV)
1. Campfires not allowed. Liquid and bottle gas stoves only.
2. No internal combustions engine operation, except motor vehicles.
3. Smoking allowed only in enclosed vehicles and buildings, developed recreation sites, or cleared areas.
4. No off-road/off-trail vehicle travel or travel on roads not cleared of standing grass or other flammable material; no vehicle travel on those FS roads where access has been impeded or blocked by earthen berm, logs, boulders, barrier, barricade or gate, or as otherwise identified in the Fire Order.