The Oregon Trail in Oregon:
Following the mighty Columbia
The Oregon Trail enters its namesake
state northwest of Boise,
where it threads its way through the northeastern corner of Oregon.
Here pioneers leave the Snake River and head
northwest to meet the mighty Columbia
River that will lead them west.
The stretch from the Idaho border to the Columbia
River crosses the Blue Mountains, a source of
elation for many of the emigrants who had endured many weeks and hundreds of
miles of desert heat and parched land.
Today’s travelers entering the
Blue Mountains are quite likely to
experience a feeling similar to that of the pioneers.
At least we certainly did.
Terrain surrounding the trail in
Oregon provided a pleasant change
from the plains of Nebraska, and the deserts of
Mountains and greenery became the norm as the
emigrants rolled northwest toward the Columbia and then west to
City, site of
a marvelous interpretive center devoted to the
Oregon Trail, is itself an interesting
place to spend part of a day. Once the largest town in
City served as
a supply center both for gold miners and travelers on the
driving northwest through the
Blue Mountains toward
the Columbia River offers great scenery in addition to relief from the
River is simply magnificent and one can only wonder how glorious it must
have looked before a series of dams were constructed along the river.
During our own trip, we decided to
take a detour from Pendleton,
Oregon to Walla
Walla, Washington, site of
Whitman Mission National Historic Site.
The mission served as a stop for many of the trail’s
early immigrants before missionary Marcus and his wife were killed by
Indians in 1847.
Following this short visit to
it was back into Oregon
and a drive west along the south bank of the mighty
Roads on either side of this magnificent river
provide some of the most scenic driving in the United States.
At The Dalles,
many pioneers chose to loop south away from the river and head west through
the mountains to
The southern route along the
Barlow Road had its own
issues but was generally considered less dangerous than the water route on
the untamed Columbia.
This is the path we took, in part because of our
planned return along the river when we headed back east.
The stunning view of snow-covered
Mount Hood alone makes this a
After approximately three weeks of
driving from Independence,
we pulled into
Oregon City, Oregon, the trail's
Here we were met with one of the few disappointments of the
at the End of the Trail had been closed the previous fall.
Still, we were able to stroll around the grounds
that remain open to the public.
The photo at the top of the main page was taken at
Interesting Oregon sites along the Oregon
Located east of
Baker City, the Bureau
of Land Management had built a marvelous facility dedicated to the Oregon
It includes exhibits, videos, and a path to the trail ruts.
Allot sufficient time for your visit that can easily
consume several hours
Wagon ruts are visible at the bottom of the hill on
the road from Baker
The hill on which the center is located offers a magnificent view of the
View our video of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.
2) Oregon Trail Interpretive Park at Blue Mountain Crossing - Here visitors
are able to walk along a paved path that follows ruts of the trail.
This is an excellent stop as it is lightly visited and the ruts from the
wagons are in excellent shape. Interpretive signs have been placed
along the path. Restrooms are available. Take Exit 284 off I-84
northwest of the town of La Grande.
View our video of this
3) Whitman Mission (Washington) - Marcus Whitman and
wife, Narcissa, started a mission at this location in 1836.
The mission, now operated as a national historic
site by the National Park Service, includes the original mission site, a
visitor center with a small museum, and the grave where the Whitmans are
The mission was a stop for early pioneers headed for
our Video of Whitman Mission.
4) Echo Meadows - Excellent Oregon Trail ruts are on
Bureau of Land Management property about five miles west of Echo, Oregon.
Echo is a small town west of Pendleton, just off
Access to the ruts is via a short gravel road that
intersects Highway 320.
The BLM provides a half-mile paved walking trail
(with occasional benches for today's pioneers) that leads to the ruts.
This is a relaxing stop at which you are likely to
encounter few other visitors.
View our video
of Oregon Trail ruts near Echo.
5) Deschutes Ruts - Near where the
into the Columbia is a wonderful set of
ruts descending toward the river.
The ruts are easily accessible from U.S. Highway 30
that parallels the south bank of
Park beside the road and walk the ruts to the top of
the hillside for a superb view of the
our video of the Oregon Trail as it descends to the Columbia River.
6) Barlow Road - The 1846 opening of the Barlow Road
allowed pioneers to skirt south and loop around Mount Hood while they
avoided the need to build or rent rafts that would allow them to float down
the dangerous Columbia River.
The road heads south, away from the river at The
Dalles, and winds through some spectacular country on the trail’s final
stretch to Oregon
The route was pioneered by Kentuckian Sam Barlow who
charged tolls that enraged the emigrants.
Taking this route offers a magnificent view of
View our video
of the Barlow Road summit
Vancouver – An important British
fur-trading post of the Hudson’s
Bay Company assisted American emigrants who arrived in the
The fort has been reconstructed by the National Park
Service and visitors can enjoy tours of the grounds and buildings.
A visitor center sits on a hill overlooking the
A nominal admission fee is charged.
The fort is located on the north side of the
Columbia River in Vancouver,
our video of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.