THE NATIONAL HISTORIC OREGON TRAIL INTERPRETIVE
150 years ago, pioneers came for two thousand miles over
the Oregon and California Trails to find new lives in the West. Mothers,
fathers, and children walked with their wagons across endless prairies,
scorched deserts, craggy summits, and swollen rivers. Days were hot and
nights were bitter cold. Often, they fought starvation, and for five
months straight they marched as far as twenty miles a day.
Despite the distance and perils, over 300,000 departed from
Missouri. Between 1810 and 1860, approximately 60,000 of those pioneers
came to Oregon, mainly to find farmland. At the National Historic Oregon
Trail Interpretive Center at Flagstaff Hill in Baker City, Oregon, visitors
can learn and re-experience the Oregon Trail story.
The Oregon Trail interpretive Center offers a
variety of opportunities. An exhibit hall uses artifacts, graphics, videos,
and quotes from pioneer diaries to acquaint you with the Trail. For
most visitors, the most impressive feature of the Center is a 100 foot
long gallery in which trail life has been dramatically re-created with
full size replica wagons, human and animal figures, and sound effects recreating
creaking wagons, pioneer chatter, and the jangling chains of plodding oxen.
The Leo Adler Theater offers living history dramatic
presentations, lectures, and films. Outside the 23,000 square foot interpretive
Center, over four miles of trails lead hikers to different vistas of the
spectacular Baker Valley and Blue Mountains. Ruts of the Oregon Trail still
exist at the base of Flagstaff Hill, and visitors can walk alongside ground
firmly trampled by thousands of pioneer wagons and footsteps.
The Center focuses on six themes: Natural History,
Pre-emigrant travelers and explorers, Native Americans along the Oregon
Trail, and Emigrant Life, The General Land Office and Bureau of Land Management,
and the Mining and Settlement of Northeast Oregon. A pioneer encampment
with wagons and tents is frequently staffed by re-enactors demonstrating
cooking and crafts. A lode mining camp, including a five-stamp gold mill
is currently under construction, to recreate a typical setting from the
mining era, which lured many settlers to Northeast Oregon in the 1860ís.
The Center has been open since 1992, and
is operated by the Bureau of Land Management in partnership with Trail
Tenders, and The Oregon Trail Preservation Trust.
Visitors should plan at least two hours to take
advantage of all the exhibits, theater programs, and hiking trails, and
to visit the Oregon Trail Shop with its large selection of books and products
related to Oregon Trail history. Many travelers combine a trip to the Center
with visits to Hell's Canyon, the historic mining town of Sumpter or a
tour of the restored buildings in Historic Baker City.
The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive
Center is open seven days a week, except Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
November 1st through March 31st hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 1st through
October 31st it is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission fees are charged. For
more information, call the Center at 541-523-1843, or the Baker County
Visitor and Convention Bureau at 1-800-523-1235.
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