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oregon trail

History of the Grande Ronde Valley

For thousands of years, Native Americans were drawn to the Grande Ronde Valley to hunt, gather food, and graze their horses. The abundant resources drew several different-and often warring-tribes. For a few months during the summer, the Nez Perce, Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla and Shoshone tribes lived together in harmony in what they called "The Valley of Peace." 

Although settlers passed through the valley while en route along the Oregon Trail in the early 1840s, few were willing to be deterred from their Willamette Valley goal. But early in the 1860s, many settlers took notice of the Grande Ronde Valley's resources, establishing farms and settlements. With the discovery of gold, the valley prospered and settlements thrived.

The Blue Mountains, named for their deep blue color the adopt under certain atmospheric conditions, border Union County's western edge, while the snow-capped Wallowa Mountains border the east.

The Blue Mountains, one of Oregon's oldest and longest mountain ranges, extend from eastern Oregon into eastern Washington. Once part of a great inland lake, the Grande Ronde Valley floor is rich in nutrients, giving rise to Union County's agricultural industry.