In the aftermath of the 1863 Treaty with the U.S. government, the Wallowa Valley in northeastern Oregon was left outside of the Nez Perce reservation. Joseph and his brother Ollokot met with General O.O. Howard at Fort Lapwai in the spring of 1877 in an attempt to forestall a forced eviction from their homes. Their parley failed and Joseph returned with sad news - the Nez Perce had to leave. Howard gave them only thirty days to pack and move to the Nez Perce Reservation. Although at the time they did not know it, Joseph would never be allowed to return to their homeland again.
Dug Bar was a traditional crossing point for the Nez Perce. In the late summer, after water levels traditionally drop, it was a relatively safe place to cross the river. Unfortunately, the bands had to cross the Snake River at the end of May with their horses and cattle when it was running high and fast with the spring runoff. When the Nez Perce forded the river on May 31, they lost several head of cattle in the churning water. The group then climbed out of the steep river canyon and converged at Tepahlewam or Tolo Lake, where they would rest before the last leg of their journey to their new homes on the Reservation.
Please note: Dug Bar is in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. The site can be accessed by boat and there are boat companies that can provide access to the site. The road to Dug Bar is suitable for high clearance vehicles only. Please call the Hells Canyon Ranger Station in Clarkston, Washington or Joseph, Oregon for current road conditions.