Our Daily Sykes #73 – "Minam Canyon" Not

Minam Canyon, Oregon - perhaps. (To ENLARGE click TWICE and search for the road & the stream, bottom right.)

Considering only the similar sky and the convenience of being nearby, Horace Sykes might well have taken this canyon-scape on the same trip that deadended for him at Hat Point where he recorded the scene shown yesterday as Sykes #72.  Not typical for him, Sykes captioned both.  That one yesterday “Hat” and this one “Minam.”  We, however, are going to willfully suspend judgment on his “Minam” identification. We feel an intuition.

For those unfamiliar with Minam, it is a small town spectacularly sited at the north border of a braiding of canyons that resemble the curly regularities in the beards of Abyssinian war lords and/or dandies. We are familiar with those from ancient bas-relief sculpture and now here south of Minam we imagine them as seen from space, as on Google Earth, which is our authority in hirsute and other hairdressing matters as in much else, including topography.  These canyons drain the north side of the Wallowa Mountains, which are Oregon’s more than match in size and elevation for Idaho’s Devils, noted yesterday.  (And from the summit of Idaho’s He Devil to that of the Wallowa’s Matterhorn is a mere 40 miles.  Both are a few stories under 10,000 feet tall.)

Now we will once more ride that devil crow, this time from Minam to Hat Point, which is about 50 miles to the east and a little to the south too of Minam.  By highways and forest roads it took Horace 75 miles or more to reach Hat Point from Minam, but what a trip it was and still is – we imagine!   Along the way – if you are driving – you, Horace and anyone will have to cross through the Imnaha Canyon, which to greatly simplify it is one canyon west of Hells Canyon, and for many in its scenery a more sublime spectacle than Hell’s.  (Of course, we have not made any poll in this, but check it out and decide for yourself.)

Returning now to my intuition.  I was stirred or agitated that the Sykes subject printed here might be a look into the Imnaha Canyon, rather than one of the several Minams, but, again, I know very little and speculate much.  Still going back and forth between them, the melody to “Let’s Put the Whole Thing Off” sustained me.  “You like Imnahas and I like Minams . . .”  I did study via Google “helicopter” the Minam canyons “flooding” north from the Wallowas and twice came close to rising with a rousing Eureka from my adjustable desk chair!  But with both canyons an irregular feature upset my discovery and I did recant.  Still I was faithful to Horace’s lead – his caption – until I wasn’t.

So I returned to the Imnaha with a mildly guilty hope and to my surprise soon found a Google blue square (that is, a donated “click me” path to photographs) of the same subject and taken from nearly the same prospect as Syke’s own.   However, to place it on the back of that now feverish crow, the blue dot is located 25 miles southwest of Hat Point and 7.5 miles southeast of the south end of Lake Wallowa, and that seemed to me to be way out of place.  (Still there are not many other blue dots in its neighborhood and with those directions you should be able to find it.)   Add to its seeming askew that the errant blue dot also has its own errant title – alas.   It is named “Hells Canyon Oregon, 1986.”

Certainly, Sykes canyon and the blue dot’s own are NOT Hell’s Canyon.  Perhaps the Google Earth blue dot photo was donated by a tourist from California or the Netherlands: generous but confused although generally in the correct corner of Oregon State.  And for a while at least that is where we will leave Horace Sykes’ “Minam Canyon” as well, somewhere in that fanciful topographical mare’s nest* that is the northeast corner of Oregon State.

* Seen in toto (altogether) from space the northwest corner of Oregon IS a mare’s nest – except for those several canyons the run north from the Wallowa Mountains to Minam.  Those are an Abyssinian’s groomed beard.


Now I have returned to my desk about three hours later and found it!  My “intuition” or hunch about it being a look into Imnaha Canyon and not one of the Minams was right.  Below, I have grabbed Sykes view with Google Earths – for a pair.  The foreground will need some adjusting (Horace was a little lower than Google) but the more distance side of the valley – its west side as it is – lines up well between Google and Sykes.  It is also a good witness to the “gloss” of the landscape that we get with Google, which with all its polishing and burnishing is a wonderfully revelatory tool.

The trick to finding this was turning the map upside down – looking south – and giving Imnaha a chance while abandoning Horace’s caption.   Here he has recorded both a stream and road at the floor of his canyon  – good clues of course.  I soon determined that the road is the Upper Imnaha Road and the river, of course, the Imnaha too.  It joins the Snake about 20 miles downstream from the turns in the river we see on the right.  That confluence is about three miles above another where the Salmon River joins the Snake.

To get to his prospect Horace drove the sometimes precipitous one-lane gravel road up the east wall of the Imnaha Canyon – up from the Imnaha Store and Tavern and Motel and Roadhouse.  Google includes an undated blue-dot photo of the clapboard establishment and it is blazoned with a banner celebrating its centennial.  Horace took his photo looking south from an elevation of about 4200 feet.  The river is 2000 feet below him.

Horace was standing on the exhilirating Monument Ridge, it is called, that carries what Google names the “Hat Point Road” for several miles above yet another valley – one between the Imnaha and Hells canyons.  (Hidden here behind Horace.)  Where this unnamed (we don’t know it) valley reaches grade with Monument Ridge is where Horace turned east towards Hat Point for  the Hat Point Road’s last run up to its nearly 7000 feet high namesake.  The distance between the sweet spot where Horace took this look south into the Imnaha is – as our crow flies – about ten miles from Hat Point across the “Interstitial Canyon,” we are now calling it.

The Imnaha River Canyon twice from Monument Ridge - once by Google and again (and earlier) by Horace Sykes. Both look south and a little west.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.