Oregon Coast

Thunder on the
Zumwalt Prairie

Frozen rattlesnakes and wolf politics in the fabled and stunning setting of the Zumwalt Prairie in Eastern Oregon.

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PHOTO: Grasses glow in late afternoon sun on the Zumwalt Prairie in far Eastern Oregon.

I’m on my way to the Zumwalt Prairie with my younger brother. We’ve arrived at the Oregon township of Imnaha, population 12, which sits nestled in a deep canyon of exposed yellowish-orange rock along the Imnaha River.

We’re being served a beer and a story at the local Tavern-General Store-Restaurant, which is decorated with rattlesnake skins, pictures of women holding elk antlers, and old-timey jokes about fishing.  The Tavern makes no bones about its position on Canadian wolves being introduced to nearby Idaho with signs: “Govt. Sponsored Terrorism: CANADIAN WOLVES!!”, “Canadian Wolf…Tastes like Chicken” and, “Canadian Wolf…It’s What’s for Dinner!”

Eating wolves may sound like bumper sticker banter, but up until a few years ago, Imnaha served barbecued bear along with rattlesnakes at its yearly Canyon Days festival.   Animals play a big role in conversation here.  Cougar sightings, where the salmon are biting, wolf politics, and of course rattlesnakes.  The tavern itself keeps a freezer full of rattlers, ready for the barbecue.