National Park Road Trip 2010: Crossing into Oregon

Southeastern Oregon offers more attractions for Oregon Trail buffs, ranging from a fine interpretive museum and a state park that marks the spot where emigrants left the Snake River behind. Photos by David and Kay Scott.

Editor's note: David and Kay Scott this summer are living what many of us wish we could do: they're following a meandering path across the country to visit units of the National Park System. This installment of their trek comes from southeastern Oregon, where you can find a great interpretive center dedicated to the 19th century pioneers.

Greetings from Baker City, Oregon, a small town with a rich history. Baker City, formerly just Baker, was (and may still be) a town of wealth, as gold was discovered nearby. For a small town of 10,000 souls, it has an attractive city park, an interesting city hall, and, best of all, a splendid Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, which is where we spent most of the afternoon.

We should mention that as outsiders, we know Oregon mostly as a state where you can’t pump your own gasoline and where you don’t have to pay sales tax. They once charged out-of-staters an extra fee to enter or camp in the state parks. Fortunately, that is no longer the case.

The interpretive center, operated by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, is four miles outside town. The center is the best we have visited on this trip. It has realistic exhibits, interpretive presentations, and a trail providing access to Oregon Trail ruts. Various films are shown during the day, and the one we viewed on the Oregon Trail was just excellent. It included many of the places we have visited and written about including Windlass Hill, Scotts Bluff, and the Guernsey Ruts.

The admission charge of $6 for adults is a bargain, and using your America the Beautiful pass for free admission is a steal. You can view our video of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center at this site.

Following our last email from Three Island Crossing State Park in Idaho, we drove north toward Boise. About ten miles south we exited in order to drive to Bonneville Hill, a promontory where Captain Benjamin Bonneville stood and saw the river, trees, and valley he called Les Bois, later known as Boise. This is also a point where emigrants on the Oregon Trail crossed over the hill and ruts are easily visible from near the monument. You can view our Bonneville Point video at this site.

In Boise, we stopped to buy gasoline ($2.79), acquire some ice and groceries, and visit the splendid old Union Pacific Depot. You can view our video of the Union Pacific Depot at this site.

We have visited Boise previously and found it just as pleasant on this occasion. Wide streets, lots of people bicycling, and attractive city parks. Seems as if Boise would be a pleasant place to live.

Driving northwest from Boise, we stayed as closely as possible to the old Oregon Trail. We had decided we would camp at Farewell Bend State Park, a place we had stayed many years ago during our VW Campmobile days. To show our failing memory, I had remembered the park being in Idaho while Kay didn’t remember it at all. It turns out Farewell Bend is across the border in Oregon, so the drive was a little longer than anticipated.

Farewell Bend was the location where emigrants on the Oregon Trail said farewell to the Snake River, a water highway they had been following for 250 miles. At Farewell Bend the Snake heads north and the pioneers wanted to go northwest. For our video of Farewell Bend, go to this page.

The park is quite attractive with trees, lots of green grass, and beautiful river views. On the downside, there were trillions of mosquitoes whose sole mission in life is to drain all your blood. They are relentless. Imagine being a pioneer without Cutter, Off, or some other repellent. In truth, these didn’t seem to have great effect.