It’s time to share special photos from the past year. Please enjoy this selection of nature, history, and art photos from Bend Branches.
One day, while playing around with editing effects, this mirror image of autumn leaves sparked my imagination. I saw a woman wearing a crimson cape in the photo below. The short story I created, The Tree People of Autumn , is based on edited photos of trees.
I tried to turn my camera towards things in my yard more this year. Here’s one of my prickly pear cactus in bloom.
We created a big vegetable garden this year. Some of our produce may not have won ribbons at the fair, but it was entertaining. 😊
This fence lizard blended in so well with the bark of one of the western juniper trees in my backyard.
We took more short trips nearby this year. I added to my collection of rocks and featured some of my treasures in my I Like Rocks! post.
I visited Ireland and Northern Ireland last winter, prior to the world locking down. This European eagle-owl at the Dingle Falconry Experience in County Kerry, was gorgeous.
I showed a glimpse of local history with this picture of headdresses at the High Desert Museum in Bend. The craftmanship of these is amazing. This photo also includes a ballot box, something many of us made use of this year.
I emphasized the many shapes and textures of artifacts in the Kam Wah Chung Heritage Site in John Day, Oregon. This site, built in the 1860s, was an important gathering place for Chinese immigrants. Doc Hay, the resident doctor, gave local people an herbal decoction during the 1918-1919 flu pandemic. Though some still became ill, all were able to continue working and not a single person died.
When I visited the Kindred Spirits sculpture in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, I was touched by the story behind it. In 1847, people of the Choctaw tribe in America shared a gift of $170 with the Irish people during Ireland’s Great Famine. That action was reciprocated this year when people of Irish descent sent financial help to Native Americans suffering from the pandemic.
The world this year seemed to be full of disasters, but many of us found comfort in art. This was one of the interesting sculptures at Winterfest in Bend. See the guy photobombing my picture?
We created art in new ways. These are face masks I made from customized fabric. Who knew they would make a fashion statement this year?
I finally filled up an empty wall by creating a mural featuring characters in stories I’m working on. Can you see the pronghorn, ground squirrel, magpie, and badger? High Desert Mural features close ups of each critter and more on the creative process.
After the local galleries were shut down for the monthly First Friday Art Walk event, I decided to share more of my own art under the First Friday Art tag. Here’s the first piece I shared in May. I created this feather on scratchboard during a scientific illustration course.
Leaping towards the future
I remembered sights seen on past adventures and look forward to future travels. This dolphin sculpture is in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. It expresses the joy many of us will feel at being able to travel once more.
I hope you can venture out more in the upcoming year and that you’ll share special photos a year from now. 😀
The items of various shapes and sizes in the kitchen of Kam Wah Chung stand out in black and white. I visited the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day, Oregon a couple years ago. As I described in my post about that experience, it was like stepping back in time. This small building served as a general store, apothecary, doctor’s office, boarding house, religious center, and meeting spot for the Chinese people of the community in the late 1800s. Most worked in mines or on railroad line construction.
The co-owners of this business were Lung On, aka “Leon”, and Ing Hay, aka “Doc Hay.” As a result of their hard work, the business thrived for many years. Lung On passed away in 1940. Ing Hay moved to a nursing home in Portland, Oregon in 1948. The building stood vacant until it was opened in 1967. It contained a treasure trove of artifacts–over 30,000 have been cataloged so far.
Visitors can visit this site with a guide to learn more. It is a fascinating tour, made more interesting by the fact that the owners of this business were directly affected by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. It is a part of history many of us never learned. Seeing a site such as this makes overlooked parts of our history come alive.
For information on tours, visit the Oregon State Parks site. Note Kam Wah Chung is only open seasonally and may be affected by COVID-19 restrictions.
In April 2019, I went on a field trip to see petroglyphs & pictographs in Harney County, in eastern Oregon. This is one of the many trips offered as a part of the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival. Our guides that day were Bureau of Land Management archaeologists, Scott Thomas and Carolyn Temple.
One of the first things we learned was the difference between petroglyphs and pictographs.
Pictographs, like the images shown below, are painted onto rocks. These works are generally drawn with red, black, white, or yellow paint.
Pictographs frequently include depictions of animals. For example, the drawing at the top of the picture below appears to be a lizard.
Other works are classified as rectilinear abstracts. This form regularly includes straight lines, zigzags, lines resembling a rake, squares, chevrons, and other elements.
Abstract styles are fairly common in the northern part of the Great Basin. The pictograph below shows examples of the curvilinear abstract form. It includes circles, curvilinear meanders, dots, arcs, tally circles, together with more complex figures.
Petroglyphs are made by grinding and pecking rock away to form an image.
Abstract forms are also common in petroglyphs. These may include circles, connected circles, dots, curvilinear meanders, in addition to zigzagging and straight lines.
Our guides referred to the petroglyph below as the “super 8 movie camera.” Can you see the resemblance?
Zigzagging and straight lines are carved into the rock at the top of this petroglyph.
Significance and age of petroglyphs & pictographs
You may be wondering what these petroglyphs and pictographs represent. No one knows for sure. Some believe they document a specific event, such as a successful hunt. Others believe they were part of a religious ceremony or group history. However, they may also have been created as an artistic expression. All of these theories may in fact be correct.
It is also difficult to determine how old these images are. Sometimes researchers can use the lichens growing on the rocks or C-14 dating to age the petroglyphs and pictographs. When they studied rock art in nearby Lake County, they got a lucky break. Ash from the eruption of Mount Mazama 7,600 years ago covered the images. As a result, this helped them determine those particular images were at least that old. Creating rock art is an ancient practice that has existed for thousands of years.
Preserving the images and seeing them in new way
Our guides made a point of reminding us how fragile these images are. For instance, if you touch them, the oil in your skin can cause pictograph paint to deteriorate. Permanent damage has occurred as a result of visitors making rubbings of carved images. Unfortunately, as we witnessed, images in rural areas are often used for target practice. Due to the negligent actions of a few, access to some sites is limited. Our group helped preserve the images by documenting what we saw only with photographs.
The guides mentioned a really cool way to see more of the faint drawings. If you go to dstretch.com, you can get a plugin that allows you to “see” pigments impossible to see with the naked eye. I was out of cell range and couldn’t get the plugin but others had it. Wow! You see images where it looks like there are none. Impressive. Maybe next time…
Vaqueros, otherwise known as buckaroos, worked the range in eastern Oregon for many years. The spurs and ring bit pictured were handcrafted by a silversmith in Mexico, circa 1750.
These pieces are on display in the small museum located at the Pete French Round Barn. It’s a great place to visit from an historic and architectural perspective. The barn is one of my favorite local attractions.
I’m featuring pictures of Plateau Indian beaded moccasins for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. The challenge this week is “A labor of love.”
After so much was taken away from Native Americans, creating beadwork became a labor of love. They preserved parts of their culture by decorating everyday items.
Prior to the European invasion of North America, Native Americans decorated their clothing with shells, porcupine quills, and bones.
In the early years of European settlement, pony beads were often offered in trade. Seed beads became available in the late 1800s. Seed beads are smaller and come in a wider variety of colors compared to pony beads.
Many of the designs used in the early years of beading were geometric. They generally included symbols important to specific tribes and regions.
Techniques for applying the beads varied. One technique involved threading several beads onto a thread. Thread on a second needle tacked these lines of beads onto the material.
By the late 1800s, realistic designs became more common. For example, patterns often included local flowers and wildlife.
In the early 1900s, more types of beads were available and designs became more elaborate. Interest in buying beadwork increased. As a result, designs changed to include marketable patterns, including American flags.
These Plateau Indian beaded moccasins, displayed at the High Desert Museum like works of art, showcase the skills of their makers.
Vista House is a unique landmark sitting high above the Columbia River about a half hour east of Portland, Oregon. Perched atop Crown Point, 733 feet above the Columbia River, this site serves as a rest stop and observatory for people traveling the Historic Columbia River Highway.
Assistant Highway Engineer Samuel Lancaster was the supervisor of the Columbia River Highway project in 1913. It was his idea to offer a place that would make the natural wonders of the Columbia River Gorge more accessible to visitors. Lancaster thought Crown Point would be an ideal site for “an observatory from which the view both up and down the Columbia could be viewed in silent communion with the infinite.”
Architect Edgar M. Lazarus designed the structure in a modern German style that incorporated aspects of Art Nouveau. Multnomah County road master John B. Yeon supervised Vista House’s construction. Construction started in 1916 and was completed in 1918.
State funds were not available for its construction, so it was funded by Multnomah County and from private sources. Local schoolchildren were among the contributors. Because of its high costs, the public dubbed it the “million dollar outhouse.” It was original budgeted at $12,000 but ultimate costs were closer to $100,000, nearly $2 million in today’s dollars.
The exterior of the eight-sided building is constructed from gray sandstone. Vista House is 55 feet high and 44 feet in diameter. Inside, light cream and pink Kasota limestone covers most of the interior. They used Tokeen Alaskan marble in the rotunda’s floors and stairs. It was also used in the wainscotting in the basement. Original plans for Vista House called for the dome ceiling to be constructed of marble supported by ribs of bronze. Costs were high, so they painted the ceiling to simulate the look of marble and bronze. The upper windows have greenish opalized glass. The tall rotunda windows are green at the tops and clear below, allowing visitors to take in the 360-degree view. Green tiles covered the original roof.
There are poems posted on the pillars within the rotunda. Here is my favorite one:
We call upon the mountains, the Cascades and the Olympics, the high green valleys and meadows filled with wildflowers, the snows that never melt, the summits of intense silence, and we ask that they
Teach us, and show us the Way.
We call upon the forests, the great trees reaching strongly to the sky with earth in their roots and the heaven in their branches, the fir and the pine and the cedar, and we ask them to
Teach us, and show us the Way.
-Chinook Invocation—Quoted in Edward Goldsmith, The Way, 1992
More to see
In the basement, you’ll find a small museum and gift shop. There are also several interpretive displays in the hallways. A million visitors visit this site each year.
Vista House went through extensive renovations in 2000-2005. A copper roof, installed over the tiles for 50 years, was removed and they installed green roof tiles similar to the originals. Upgrades included installing an energy efficient geothermal heat pump system.
In 1847, the worst year of Ireland’s Great Famine, people of the Choctaw Nation of the southeastern United States sent a gift of $170 to Ireland. The money, worth thousands in today’s dollars, was collected to help the starving people of Ireland. Over a million Irish people died from starvation and disease in the period from 1845 to 1849.
But why would the Choctaw have sent such a gift when many of their people were struggling to survive? In 1831, the Choctaw were the first tribe to be forcibly removed from their native lands because of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. People of the Seminole, Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Muscogee (Creek) nations, and many non-natives and people of African descent who lived with the tribes, were also forced to move. Between 1830 to 1850, they forced tens of thousands of people from nine states to move to what is now Oklahoma. The perilous journey would become known as theTrail of Tears. Thousands died from exposure, disease, starvation, and harassment by local frontiersmen.
In 1847, the Choctaw were still recovering from the injustice they had experienced. They shared what little they had to help the starving Irish people.
The nine curved eagle feathers of this sculpture, arranged in a circular shape, symbolize an empty bowl. Each feather is different and they represent the Choctaw Nation’s strength, kindness, and humanity.
A bond between nations
The simplicity of this sculpture and the simple act of kindness it symbolizes, touched my heart. At the unveiling ceremony, a Cork County official said:
They bestowed a blessing not only on the starving Irish men, women and children, but also on humanity. The gift from the Choctaw people was a demonstration of love and this monument acknowledges that and hopefully will encourage the Irish people to act as the Choctaw did.
Joe McCarthy, East Cork municipal officer
Members of the Choctaw Nation attended the opening ceremony. They felt humbled by the recognition they received 170 years later. At the ceremony, the Choctaw Nation’s chief said:
Your story is our story. We didn’t have any income. This was money pulled from our pockets. We had gone through the biggest tragedy that we could endure, and saw what was happening in Ireland and just felt compelled to help…
The bond between our nations has strengthened over the years. We are blessed to have the opportunity to share our cultures, and meet the generous people who have continued to honour a gift from the heart.
Chief Gary Batton, Choctaw Nation
Update: The kindness continues…
A couple of days ago I read an article in The Irish Times about people in Ireland participating in a fundraiser to help Native Americans suffering from the coronavirus. Native people have been especially hard hit by this virus. A GoFundMe page was set up for the Navajo & Hopi Families Covid-19 Relief Fund on 15 March 2020. Their goal was to raise $1.5 million but as of today, 7 May 2020, they have raised $3,019,390.00.
Donations have come from all over the world, but many of the donors have Irish surnames. They remember the kindness the people of the Choctaw Nation showed them in the past.
It’s time once again for fun with photos. Welcome to Photo Bloopers 4! This is what I do with pictures that don’t quite fit in or turned out weird looking. They needed a few words to make them more interesting. Hope they entertain you!
Do you want to see more of my Photo Bloopers? See:
She unfurled her gossamer wings and searched for a far away land, greener than green. After a journey of many miles, she caught glimpses of Ireland & Northern Ireland. When she landed in a lush green pasture, a part of her remembered…
Though I usually keep my travels within driving distance, I just returned from a 10-day trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland with my daughter. After losing my brother and father within months of each other, I felt an urge to visit the land of my ancestors.
We drove about 1,600 miles and I took lots of photos. I will be sprinkling glimpses of Ireland & Northern Ireland into my blog occasionally. Enjoy the scenery!
If you decide to walk the short Cave Spring Trail in Canyonlands National Park, you will be rewarded with unique encounters with history and nature.
The 0.6 mile loop trail takes you past a narrow cowboy camp tucked under a rock ledge. Camps like these were in use from the late 1800s to 1975. The Scorup-Sommerville Cattle Company managed as many as 10,000 cattle in this region. Cowboys lived a life on the range and artifacts from their outdoor camp remain at this site.
This site was prized due to the fact that a spring existed here. Rainwater percolated through the sandstone over this site and carved out alcoves.
Sites such as these hosted cowboys in the recent past, but Native Americans lived here thousands of years before them. Their rock art can be seen in parts of the cave. The spring is considered a sacred place to descendants of these people.
If you follow the trail farther, you’ll come to two narrow ladders that take you up to a slickrock sandstone plateau.
Follow the rock cairns marking the trail…
to get stunning 360-degree views of the Canyonlands.
The trail drops down into another narrow alcove and continues to the parking area. Cave Spring Trail isn’t long, but it packs a lot into a short distance.
I was especially impressed by the many interesting formations in the rock along this trail. Cave Spring Trail, and the nearby AMAZING petroglyphs of Newspaper Rock, made this one of our favorite stops on our trip to Utah’s National Parks.
It’s that time of year when you share some of your favorite pictures. As usual, I have a hard time narrowing it down. Please enjoy this selection of wild places, wildlife, history, and a pinch of art at the end.
May the new year bring you wisdom, patience, and peace.
Sunflowers & stagecoaches? You may be wondering how those two things go together.
Last August we explored the Steens Mountain area by car. Did you know you can drive all the way around this 50-mile long mountain and to its 9,700-foot peak at certain times of the year? The views from up there are breathtaking!
The following pictures are from the dirt road on the east side of Steens Mountain. Common sunflowers, Helianthus annus L., were in full bloom along the road.
As their name implies, common sunflowers are common throughout the conterminous United States and in parts of Canada and Mexico. Sunflowers have been introduced in other parts of North America and throughout the world. They occur in a wide variety of habitats including prairies, roadsides, near railroad right-of-ways, savannas, and forest edges.
These leggy plants grow 1.5 to 8+ feet tall and bloom from July through October. Their iconic flowers actually have two kinds of flowers. The yellow “ray” flowers look like petals but each is an individual flower. The “disc” flowers, at the center of the brown head, are usually small. If you magnified your view of the center of the flower, you would see that each of these disc flowers had five petals. The alternate leaves, and the main stem are covered in coarse hair.
The value of sunflowers
Sunflowers are valuable to both wildlife and people. The seeds are sought out by many species of birds. Do you have sunflower seeds from the cultivated variety of sunflower in your bird feeder? If you do, you know how much birds and other wildlife enjoy eating them.
Now on to how this plant is used by humans. Wow! Where do I start?
You have probably munched on sunflower seeds, but did you know the yellow flowers are also edible? They make a colorful addition to a salad.
In July of 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition traveled along the Missouri River in Montana and recorded these observations on sunflowers.
The sunflower is in bloom [NB: Copy for Dr. Barton] and abundant in the river bottoms. The Indians of the Missouri particularly those who do not cultivate maze make great uce of the seed of this plant for bread, or use it in thickening their soope. they most commonly first parch the seed and then pound them between two smooth stones untill they reduce it to a fine meal. to this they sometimes mearly add a portion of water and drink it in that state, or add a sufficient quantity of marrow grease to reduce it to the consistency of common dough and eate it in that manner. the last composition I think much best and have eat it in that state heartily and think it a pallateable dish.
There are many medicinal uses of this annual plant. Flowers were used for heart problems and in treating burns. Roots were used in treating blisters and snakebites. Native Americans made a leaf tea to treat lung ailments and high fevers. A poultice was applied to snake and spider bites. Seeds were used as diuretics and to help heal coughing.
Some current uses
In addition to the historical usages, sunflowers are used in creating dyes, soap, cattle and chicken feed, and a fine silky fiber, similar to hemp. Sunflower oil is widely consumed in both North America and Europe.
Fun Fact: Some Native Americans believed sunflowers were a symbol of courage. Warriors would carry sunflowers cakes with them into battle. Hunters would sprinkle themselves with sunflower powder to keep their spirits up.
Sunflowers & stagecoach stop
So now you know more about sunflowers, but why is this post called Sunflowers & Stagecoaches? While taking pictures of the sunflowers, I remembered to look for an old stagecoach stop I had seen on a Circling Steens Mountain birding field trip. Ah ha! Found it. See the dark spots in the middle of this photo? Those are the remnants of a stagecoach stop.
Here’s a closer look. The crumbling rock walls are all that’s left of this stop.
In the late 1800s to early 1900s, stagecoach routes crisscrossed the West. On the more heavily traveled routes there were stops every 25 miles or so. Why that distance? That’s about how far a team of horses pulling wagons full of goods and passengers could travel. Their progress was slow due to difficult terrain and weather that could quickly change from scorching heat to bone-chilling cold.
Some of these stations were just for changing horse teams while others had accommodations available for travelers. The stops in Fields and Frenchglen offered more options for weary travelers. One stop near the one pictured above charged 25 cents for overnight lodging and meals. The charge for the care of each horse was an additional 25 cents.
Travel along these stagecoach routes was not fast. For example, the east-west route from Ontario, Oregon to Burns, Oregon took approximately 40 hours. Today that 130-mile route takes 2 hours 12 minutes. But imagine all the sights those early travelers must have seen on those slow journeys…
Camp Hart Mountain was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and operated from 1937 to 1941. Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge , established in December of 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, helped protect pronghorn antelope.
The CCC crew stationed at Camp Hart Mountain helped with many projects such as building roads, stringing telephone lines, and building new structures. After their work was completed, most of the buildings at the camp were taken down. The building in the distance was the infirmary and it’s the only historical building remaining at this site. There is currently an RV campground located here.
By the way, I worked at Hart Mountain years ago and saw pronghorn regularly. Here’s a story of one such encounter.
“We’re almost there,” Pa said. He pointed
towards a low sagebrush-covered hill. “It’s just over that rise.”
“How many times have you said that, Pa?” I
said to myself. I shaded my eyes and looked at the dismal landscape. Dusty
sagebrush and clumps of dry grass for as far as I could see.
The year is 1853 and my name is Lizzie. My
family is heading west along the Oregon Trail. It’s not a trail so I don’t know
why they call it that. Some people call it Emigrant Road, but I don’t think
that’s right either. It’s a rough meandering pathway to a new life, that’s what
it is. That’s why so many of us are making this journey, no matter what the
We have traveled nearly 1,600 miles so
far. On a good day we make 20 miles but on most days we travel 10-15. It’s been
five months since we left Missouri.
We came here because of the promise of
free land. If Pa was a single man, he could claim 320 acres; since he’s
married, he and Ma can claim 640 acres. Was it worth it? I sure hope so. Based
on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think this is “The Land of Milk and Honey”
that everyone said it was.
History of Trail
Many of the nearly half a million emigrants that migrated to the Oregon Country in the years 1840-1870 could have written this account. In the nineteenth century, Great Britain, France, Russia, and Spain claimed parts of this region. Each country eventually gave up its claims. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 ended the joint occupancy with the British and set new boundaries for Oregon. As a result of this action, the U.S. government encouraged settlement of the newly acquired land.
Sensationalized accounts of the “Promised Land” caused the single largest voluntary migration in America. Artists such as Albert Bierstadt presented glamorized versions of the journey along the Trail.
For many of the settlers, the Willamette Valley was the final destination. To read about another wagon route, located near Sisters, Oregon, see my post Santiam Wagon Road.
In 1861, they discovered gold in the Blue Mountains in northeastern Oregon. The gold rush brought even more people to the state. Miners established mining camps in several locations. In 1894, gold was discovered on Flagstaff Hill and a mine was built there. By 1897, three quarters of Oregon’s gold—worth millions in today’s dollars—came from Baker County. One nugget weighed seven pounds!
National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, located atop
Flagstaff Hill east of Baker City, introduces visitors to this fascinating era
in American history. Exhibits at the Interpretive Center focus on different aspects
of the journey west, including the experiences of pioneers and native peoples.
Approximately 300 miles of the Oregon
Trail still exist. Much of the 2,170 mile trail has disappeared because of erosion
and development. When traveling on a dirt road, motorized vehicles create two
distinct ruts. In contrast to that, wagons pulled by teams of animals create a
trench-like swale, or wide depression. Hooves pack down the middle of the road.
At the Interpretive Center, you can hike or drive to areas where you can view
actual remnants of the trail.
Covered wagons – Inside and Out
Covered wagons are a prominent part of the
Interpretive Center, both inside and outside. Teams of oxen, mules, or horses
pulled the wagons. Mule teams cost the most to buy. Though mules could be
stubborn, they had remarkable endurance and surefootedness.
Wagon makers often painted wagons blue, with red wheels and undercarriage. The wheels shrank and separated in the heat so the wagon trains went through creeks and rivers to soak them back to size. The emigrants sometimes painted the canvas covers with oil paint for waterproofing.
Every inch of space was used in the wagons. For example, false floors and pockets sewn into the canvases held extra supplies in the interior. They strapped other supplies to the outside or carried them in saddle bags. However, many of the supplies were abandoned along the way because of excess weight. Many wagons went without brakes since this too would add weight. They slowed wagons going downhill with rough locks, wheel shoes, or a tree tied to the wheels.
Emigrants used the wagons for sick rooms,
birthing rooms, and shelter from storms.
Most did not travel inside the wagons on the trail. The rough roads led
to a bone-wrenching ride, so the emigrants walked alongside their wagons. When
the landscape allowed it, wagons traveled abreast to avoid each other’s dust.
Life and Death on the Trail
If several wagons were traveling together,
they often formed a circle at the end of the day’s travel. The area inside the
wagon circle served as a corral for livestock. Exhausted travelers slept in
tents and bedrolls outside of the circle. The day started when the sun rose.
After breakfast and gathering of the livestock, the caravan would travel for
five to six hours. The travelers had limited food supplies so meals might
include such delicacies as Velvet Tail Rattlesnake, Blue Beaver Tail Soup, and
Sometimes the wagon trains camped at noontime
resting spots, but most of the time they pressed onward for several more hours. Women and children collected firewood and men
hunted for game along the way. As evening approached, they would encircle the
wagons again. Evenings were a time for chores, such as repairing wagons and
mending clothing, but also a time to tell stories, sing, and dance.
Quarrels along the trail were common due
to events like wagons getting stuck in the mud or runaway livestock. They took
thousands of livestock animals on the trail for the settlers. The emigrants
lost many because of predators, disease, and accidents.
Many emigrants died on this perilous journey. Some called the trail a “two thousand mile long graveyard.” One estimate suggests there were 10-15 graves per mile from Missouri to Oregon. Provisions gave out and hired hands abandoned their employers. The weak and the sick gave up hope. Cholera caused death within hours and it took the lives of many on the trail. Crossing rivers was one of the most dangerous parts of the journey. Records show that ten percent of the travelers perished.
Sharing the Trail
Emigrants shared the Oregon Trail with
trappers, traders, and native people. The Umatilla, Walla Walla, Cayuse, Nez
Perce, and other tribes lived in the area near the Interpretive Center. As
emigrants displaced local people, conflicts such as the Cayuse War of 1847
arose. The old ways of living off the land and using it for hunting and vision
quests had passed. It forced Native Americans to deal with sweeping changes.
Both emigrants and natives learned to
engage in the business of trading. Native people traded horses, local game, and
salmon for cattle, beads, clothing, powder, and lead. Emigrants learned to
differentiate the tribes by their clothing, hairstyles, beadwork, and basketry.
Communication often consisted of hand signals and a few common words.
Visiting the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
After decades of planning, the National
Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center opened in 1992 to commemorate this
period of history. The 23,000-square foot building sits atop Flagstaff Hill
where visitors get a panoramic view of the surrounding territory. The Interpretive
Center includes exhibits, a theater, a café, and a gift store. There are living
history interpretive talks, lectures, and special events throughout the year. Regular
demonstrations include topics such as flint knapping, Dutch oven cooking,
blacksmithing, and black powder firearms. For more information see this brochure.
A network of trails leads you to living history encampments and to ruts left by wagons passing along the trail. You may catch glimpses of eagles flying overhead or pronghorn browsing in the sagebrush. In the spring and summer, wildflowers such as lupine, Indian paintbrush, and buttercups splash the desert with color. Visitors can take part in regular guided nature hikes.
Flagstaff Hill marked where the Great American Desert ended on the journey west. For the emigrants that made it this far, the lush vegetation and abundant game near the hill amazed them. This site symbolized all they had worked so hard for and many returned to the site years later. The Interpretive Center presents the tragedies encountered along the trail, and the joy many felt when they reached their destination.