Eureka Bar

Imnaha River on trail to Eureka Bar

Imnaha River on the trail to Eureka Bar

  • Difficult
  • 9.8 miles round trip
  • 350 feet elevation gain
  • Open all year
  • Use: hikers, horses, bikes

Where the Imnaha River rages through a jagged rock gorge to Eureka Bar, the scenery looks as though some giant had jackhammered a crack in the earth’s crust and inserted a river sideways. Incredibly, a well-built, nearly level trail clings to the cliffs for the river’s final 4.2 miles. At trail’s end hikers emerge from the gorge to find themselves at the cobble-banked Snake River, amidst the ruins of an improbable mining boomtown, deep in Hells Canyon.

Hikers should be sure to …

In 1899 a group of cagey local miners announced they had found copper ore in the granite of Hells Canyon’s inner gorge. They made good money for two or three years, selling shares of stock back East. When investments lagged, the miners claimed the copper ore contained gold. Bedazzled stockholders financed a 125-foot sternwheeler that could claw its way up the Snake River rapids from Lewiston to the new El Dorado. A town of 2000 sprang up on this remote gravel bar to build a huge gold processing mill. But on the day the steamer sailed upriver with the machinery that would finally enable Eureka to begin shipping gold, the ship lost control in the rapids, bridged the canyon, broke in two, and sank. The eastern investors lost their money. And the city of Eureka vanished as swiftly as a stranger who writes bad checks.

Beyond the ruined mill the trail …

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon.