Home » 2001 Cross Country Road Trip

National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, OR

Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 6:00am by Lolo
188 miles and 4 hours from our last stop

Travelogue

While driving on Route I84 across the northeast corner of Oregon on our way to Mount Rainier, I was poring through my Crossing America: National Geographic's Guide to the Interstates looking for some entertainment to break up the drive. This book is a great resource for finding points of interest along all of the major interstates in the U.S. Lo and behold I found that we would be passing right by the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon. Great! I love history and have tried over the years to instill the same in the kids. We've taken them to Plymouth, Williamsburg, Jamestown, Boston Freedom Trail, etc., etc., and I think, or at least I hope, that it's given them a sense of how our country came to be what it is today. Also, since we were making a journey west, I thought it would be interesting to contrast our experiences with those of the pioneers who made the same journey some 140 years ago. So we pulled them away from their Nintendo Mario Cart game and out of the air conditioned comfort of their motor home to check it out.

While the exhibits were quite good, it was the living history presentation in the theater that really gave us an understanding of what life was like for a pioneer on the Oregon Trail. This particular presentation was given by a single actor, who portrayed a slave making the journey with his master. He wore period clothing and in every way assumed the role he was portraying. It was really quite entertaining, as well as informative, and I think the kids got a lot out of it as well.

After the presentation, we hung around to speak to the actor and find out more about his background and the type of work he did. When we mentioned that we were from New Jersey, we were floored when he said, "Oh, I'm familiar with Upper Saddle River in northern New Jersey." How could he possibly have pulled out the name of our tiny little town? We check to see if we were wearing anything on our clothing to give it away, but we weren't. It turns out that he grew up with the N.Y. Giants football player, Lawrence Taylor, who lived in our town because of its close proximity to Giants Stadium, and had spent some time visiting him at his home. What a small world.

Once outside the museum, we checked out the Conestoga wagons on display before heading on. I wish we had had more time because I would have liked to have taken the hike to the section of the original Oregon Trail where the ruts from the wagons are still visible. To think they were lucky to travel 15 miles a day. I think we all left with a sense of awe and admiration for the tremendous struggles faced by the early settlers in their attempts to accomplish what we just take for granted today.

Description

The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, which is run by the Bureau of Land Management, is located in Baker City, Oregon, right off I84. The museum uses exhibits, sound effects, video presentations, and live reenactments to tell the story of pioneer life on the Oregon Trail.

Especially entertaining and informative are the living history presentations in the 150-seat Leo Adler theater. Presenters use historically accurate costumes, language, and props to give you a perspective of what life was like on the Oregon Trail.

Outside, you can take one of the hiking trails down to a well-preserved portion of the Oregon Trail and walk in the actual ruts made by the pioneer wagons.

National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center location map in "high definition"

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