Visitors to Eastern Oregon can take a day to travel to the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. There they can learn about the trials and tribulations of the pioneers who first traversed the difficult trails across the country to make their homes in the Oregon Territory. It’s an excellent spot for having fun while taking in a bit of the culture and history of the area.
I first visited the Interpretive Center as a child on family vacation. While in elementary school, my class took a field trip to the center as part of our Oregon Trail unit. Over the years I have returned to walk the museum and learn more about the history of Oregon because it is such a fascinating and unique migration to study. Especially in these times, when so many have fallen into difficult situations and are searching for ways to better the lives of their families, I think that investigating the background of the Oregon Trail is beneficial and interesting.
What is the Oregon Trail?
According to the Interpretive Center’s website, the Oregon Trail served as a route from Missouri to the Willamette Valley, in Western Oregon, for much of the 19th century. Other trails paralleled or broke off from the Oregon Trail. Pioneers made the treacherous journey to seek a better life, escape religious persecution, or to find a fortune in California.
Nowadays, over 300 miles of wagon ruts still exist, though much of the trail has been obliterated by time and construction. Because of conservation efforts that began in 1906, those intrigued by the Oregon Trail and its history can travel the route of the trail and enjoy over 125 sites along the trail.
What Can You Enjoy at the Interpretive Center?
The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center does an excellent job at educating the public about the various facets of the trail. Exhibits and presentations cover six themes, from the pioneers to mountain men to Native Americans and miners. There is also information presented about the natural history of Eastern Oregon, a treat for anyone unfamiliar with the area.
Interpretive Center presenters go to great efforts to create an authentic and historically accurate experience. They use the words, songs, and clothing styles of the time period. Volunteers also demonstrate the traditional skills and crafts of pioneers.This means that visitors can be assured of an informative and enjoyable trip to the Center.
Be sure to also take advantage of the local trails in good weather. Hike down to the well-preserved wagon ruts created by the pioneers. A person can really feel the spirit of the Oregon Trail as he or she walks the trail and gazes around at the majestic scenery. What they must have felt as they reached the final part of their 2000-mile journey!
How Can You Visit the Center?
The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center is located near Baker City. Exit I-84 at exit 302 onto Highway 86. It is 125 miles from Boise and 95 miles from Pendleton.
Hours of operation are 9:00 am to 6:00 pm from April to October. From November to March, hours are 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. It is open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Fees are $8 for adults for two days. Seniors are $4.50, and children under 15 are free.
Sources and Further Reading
National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center website