Wouldn’t you like to have a river winding across your floor
like this one in the entry hall?
How about a cedar dugout canoe? Some were up to 50 feet in
The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum is in The Dalles along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Built in the 1900s, this road was the first scenic highway in the U.S. The highway winds through areas with forests, rocky cliffs, and dramatic waterfalls. We were planning to visit Multnomah Falls that day, but it was inaccessible due to a fire.
Creatures from the Ice Age
So we ended up here and a Columbian mammoth trumpeted with joy when he saw us. We stayed out of the way of his 16-foot long tusks. We found another interesting critter close by.
Did you know that there were once dire wolves in Oregon? Me neither. They were the largest canid to have lived, weighing as much as 150 pounds. Sometimes creatures portrayed in stories, such as Game of Thrones, actually existed.
From cultures that date back >10,000 years ago
Next we walked into a gallery of Native American artifacts. This center features artifacts from Wasco, Northern Paiute, and Warm Springs tribes.
Beadwork and basketry always impresses me. It would take so much patience to create something like that, something I don’t always have.
In another part of the center, the practice of fishing the Columbia River off of wooden platforms is highlighted. Native Americans fished this river for thousands of years but the runs of salmon have decreased dramatically due to dams and warming water temperatures.
Lewis & Clark’s travels
Several displays referred to the explorations of Lewis and Clark.
They passed through the Gorge traveling west in October of 1805 and on their way back home in April of 1806.
Members of the Lewis and Clark party traded with the natives for needed supplies and information on routes. See those strings of beads hanging from the display? Beads had great value as an item to trade at the time.
Naturalists were eager to explore this new land and this
display shows some of the winged wonders they encountered. That’s a lot of
As the United States expanded its territories in the 1840s and 1850s, more settlers moved toward the West. Lt. John C. Frémont explored the Oregon Trail, camping at The Dalles in 1843. The Army helped map potential wagon routes through Oregon.
Settling into Wasco County
Thousands of settlers soon made their way to Oregon and towns sprung up to support them.
The right saddle
Businesses catering to the settler’s needs prospered. Those are some nice saddles!
The Chinese in mid- to late-1800s Oregon
The railroad expanded into Oregon. Chinese immigrants helped construct railways and worked in the gold mines. They brought elements of their culture with them.
Though some of their customs and products, such as fireworks, were appreciated by the largely European American residents, Chinese often encountered prejudice.
This exhibit detailed archaeological work on the Chinatown site that once existed in The Dalles. After the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, it was more difficult for them to stay in the United States. Most moved away from The Dalles by the late 1920s.
There were a couple things we didn’t see on this visit.
The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center put a lot of time into restoring native habitat on the 54-acre campus. There is a short nature walk with interpretive markers around the buildings.
They have a Raptor Interpretive Program that uses live falcons, hawks, eagles, and owls. They have presentations for visitors on days that vary with the season.
The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center was a nice place for an unplanned stop. Lots to see and do there. We were there in October and there weren’t many other visitors. The fall leaves outside the building greeted us in bright shades of gold.
There’s a great fountain just outside the front door. I leave you with the calming sounds of its waters.
I saw many plants I’m familiar with on this tour. Some I knew the names of, others I was like, “Uh… what was your name again?” Fortunately, the plants were labeled or the person whose garden it was could tell you.
Here are some old friends.
Here are some new-to-me plants. As I add to our landscaping, I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting plants.
Birds of the shore are common in the spring in parts of eastern Oregon. Why? Because flood irrigation is one of the main methods used to water the crops. As the snow melts off surrounding mountains, it collects in rivers and reaches the lower elevations.
It is released in controlled amounts in the Harney Basin, where 320 bird species congregate. This ancient method of irrigation benefits the rancher and the birdwatcher.
Birds such as sandhill cranes take advantage of all of that water. You can see flocks of them in the photo above and a single bird below.
I love seeing delicate long-legged beauties such as black-necked stilts and American avocets.
If you’re lucky, you may even see a Wilson’s snipe. Yes, they really do exist.
Flood irrigation creates temporary ponds and lakes with miles and miles of shoreline.
I saw quite a few long-billed curlew this spring. I was dive-bombed by one once when I was too close to her nest. That bill is dangerous looking! It can measure more than eight and a half inches in length.
Thousands of Ross’ and snow geese congregate in this area.
Waterfowl are common in the ponds and lakes. Here is a raft of ducks. This image is a little blurry but I included it to show the difference between canvasbacks and redhead ducks. The pair on the far left are redheads. See how the plumage is more gray? There are lots of opportunities to get clear views of many species.
You may see elegant swans as well. Trumpeter and tundra swans have been seen here.
You will be amazed when you spot unique birds of the shore, such as this American bittern. Keep your binoculars handy when traveling through this country in the spring and you will be rewarded.
I saw plenty of raptors on a Birds of Prey tour in the wide-open country of Harney County, Oregon last April. We ventured briefly into the Malheur National Forest in search of eagles. Though we didn’t see any eagles, we did get a nice view of an American kestrel.
We saw immature and mature bald eagles later that day. It’s always exciting to see them.
Some of the wildlife out there was keeping an eye on us. This herd of elk on a distant ridge top watched us for a while.
Raptors were common and we saw many of them perched on fenceposts and telephone poles.
Ground squirrels hang out in the irrigated fields and the birds of prey congregate there to find an easy meal. They like to perch on the pivot irrigation systems.
Turkey vultures also enjoy some nice fresh ground squirrel. This one was close to the road and we had a great view of it having a little snack.
We were lucky to see a prairie falcon, the only one we spotted that day.
Mule deer were common. This herd had 30+ deer.
We stopped in another spot to take pictures of deer then noticed something else in the foreground. Two burrowing owls! Can you find both of them in the photo with the deer? That was my favorite observation of the day.
This tour was part of the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival. Our guides that day were Ben Cate, from the High Desert Partnership, and Melanie Finch, wildlife technician with the U.S. Forest Service .
Raptors Pocket Guide
Though I know certain species well, I’m no expert when it comes to identifying raptors. I rely on helpful tour guides and field guides. I have field guide books and the iBird Pro app, but this handy fold out pocket guide is really helpful.
This guide includes silhouettes, identifying markings, and different color morphs. It was a dark spring day on this trip and the silhouettes page helped make identifying birds easier.
We saw quite a few raptors so it was a successful seven-hour field trip. Until next year…
I enjoy visiting Glass Buttes in Central Oregon to collect obsidian. Did you know there are over 24 kinds found there? Here are photos of obsidian up close. The stones are beautiful in color, but also in form.
This is a kinetic sound sculpture that’s part of an exhibit at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. The exhibit is called Desert Reflections: Water Shapes the West and it runs through September 29, 2019. This exhibit used the combined talents of scientists, historians, and artists.
When you play the video on this post, listen carefully to the music in the background. The sounds of High Desert water and wind were recorded. They were combined with the “color” of music played on a Skinner church organ.
As the artists at Harmonic Laboratory state, “This evokes the richness of the region, a place shaped by many forces interacting in a complex way.”
As you stand underneath the sculpture, the calming tones, continuous motion, and gentle breeze helps you feel some of the energy that’s such an important part of High Desert environments.
Have you ever stepped inside a time capsule and discovered a place frozen in time? You have the opportunity to visit such a place if you stop at the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day, Oregon. The small building, located two blocks north of Highway 26, was, at one time, bustling with activity. Kam Wah Chung, which translates to the “Golden Flower of Prosperity,” served as a dry goods store, herbalist shop, import business, house of worship, and boarding house. It also housed an informal library and post office.
A Tour Inside
As you step into the dimly lit interior of the building, you get a feel for what life was like decades ago.
Boxes and tins of everyday products line the shelves. Merchandise stocked at Kam Wah Chung appealed to both Chinese and American customers.
In the backroom, larger boxes of supplies fill the room.
The apothecary is amazing! Stacks of small neatly labeled boxes reach to the ceiling.
They used many herbs in the practice of Chinese medicine, but also more exotic things like lizard feet, bat wings, and bear parts. A small room across from the apothecary served as a place to treat patients.
You step through a low doorway to get into the kitchen. The table and wood stove look ready to serve a hot meal.
An early version of a refrigerator cabinet sits in a corner.
Religion was an important part of everyday life and small altars, with dried oranges and incense stick offerings, are tucked into various nooks.
Two sets of bunk beds are in the same room as the kitchen. Advertisements line the walls and undersides of the bunks, in case you might need to purchase a suit while staying there.
As you pass through another door, you’ll enter a private bedroom. You can’t go upstairs, but additional boarding and living quarters are located there.
History of Kam Wah Chung
The building was constructed in the 1860s as a trading post, and it was put under lease to the Kam Wah Chung Company in 1878. Ing Hay and Lung On, both originally from the Guangdong Province of China, formed a partnership and purchased the business in 1887. It served as a gathering place for Chinese immigrants who traveled to Oregon to work on railroad lines and in gold mines. In 1862, prospectors discovered gold in Canyon City, two miles south of John Day. In 1880, John Day was home to over 2,000 Chinese, the second largest Chinese community in Oregon and one of the largest in the U.S.
Partners in business – Ing Hay and Lung On
Ing Hay, also known as “Doc Hay,” practiced herbal medicine and pulsology. Doc Hay lost his sight, but he claimed he could use his sensitive hands to identify ailments based on a patient’s pulse. Western medicine was in its infancy at that time and anyone could claim to be a doctor. Nearly half of patients treated by “quack” doctors died from infection. Ing Hay served both Chinese and non-Chinese patients and was a well-respected healer throughout the region. He was considered a “municipal treasure” after he used his herbal remedies to prevent the spread of illness during the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.
Lung On, also known as “Leon,” was a well-educated man fluent in both English and Chinese. He used his charisma and many skills in his work as a merchant, labor contractor, mediator, and translator. After the gold rush, he turned to other endeavors. Lung On started a mail-order clothing company and also had one of the first car dealerships and service stations east of the Cascades. He also dabbled in real estate and horse racing. Lung On was a successful businessman and he willed his $90,000 estate to Ing Hay. Both men continued living in the Kam Wah Chung building for nearly 60 years and were considered valued members of the community.
The Chinese Exclusion Act
Though both had family in China, they never returned to their native country. One reason for this was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Increasing tensions between Chinese and resident laborers in a struggling economy led to a series of laws. The Act stated that Chinese could not become U.S. citizens or own land. Teachers, students, diplomats, and merchants were given limited rights, but weren’t always allowed back into the U.S. if they left the country. In John Day, Chinese could only live in a small neighborhood near Kam Wah Chung and it served as a refuge for them. More moved to John Day in 1885 when the Chinese neighborhood in Canyon City burned to the ground and they were not allowed to rebuild. It was a challenging environment for people of Chinese heritage and they felt safer living near each other.
Chinese could not own guns in Grant County so Ing Hay and Lung Ho kept meat cleavers at the ready to defend themselves. You can see evidence of how they were harassed by observing bullet holes in their metal-clad front door. The thin layer of metal didn’t stop any bullets, but it prevented fire from destroying the building.
Opening the Time Capsule
Lung On passed away in 1940 and Ing Hay moved to a Portland nursing home in 1948. He passed away in 1952 and his nephew sold the building to the city of John Day. Ing Hay wanted the building to serve as a Chinese history museum, but that request was forgotten. The Kam Wah Chung building remained locked until 1967. When the doors were opened, everything inside was largely intact. Over 30,000 artifacts have been cataloged. The apothecary contained hundreds of herbs, some of which no longer exist in the wild. One of Doc Hay’s medical books may have been compiled 300-500 years ago by one of the founders of Chinese medicine. If the book is an original, it would be one of the few copies known to still exist.
Visiting Kam Wah Chung
Kam Wah Chung was deeded to Oregon State Parks and Recreation in 1975 and leased to the city of John Day. It opened to the public in 1977. The state took over management of the site in 2004. The Friends of Kam Wah Chung help manage a small visitor center and store housed in a separate building.
Oregon State Parks and Recreation offers free 45-minute tours of the Kam Wah Chung site from May 1 to October 31. A guide must accompany visitors. The guides offer visitors a wealth of information and they obviously enjoy sharing their knowledge. Their talks are enhanced by informative recordings. The tours fill up fast so this year they are experimenting with making reservations in advance.
There are several exciting updates related to Kam Wah Chung. Plans are in the works for a larger visitor center that may include a “virtual reality” room that would simulate the interior of the building. Recent archaeological research at the site has revealed where the temple and other buildings may have once stood. In July, students can participate in an archaeology field school on the site as part of the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project. Malheur National Forest, Southern Oregon Laboratory of Anthropology, and Kam Wah Chung are among those working on this project. The Discovery Channel is working on a documentary about Chinese traditional medicine and they have shot footage at Kam Wah Chung and several other locations. The program is expected to air in North America in the fall of 2019.
Visitors from around the world
This site is an important destination for those interested in history. It is the best known example of an historical Chinese mercantile and herb store in the United States. Chinese scholars have expressed great interest in Kam Wah Chung and they visit the site regularly. As news stories related to discoveries at the site have spread throughout China, it has become a destination for Chinese tourists. People from all over the world visit Kam Wah Chung.
There has been a significant increase in the number of visitors from the Netherlands. Locations near Kam Wah Chung were featured in the highly popular Dutch reality program “Wie is de Mol?” which translates as “Who is the Mole?”
I am fortunate that this site is only about two hours away from Bend, Oregon, where I live. It’s a trip well worth taking.
Here are a few interesting facts about Kam Wah Chung:
More than 90 unopened bottles of bourbon whiskey were found under the floorboards and in the walls, stashed there during the Prohibition. Today they are valued at around $10,000 each. Several bottles mysteriously disappeared during various renovations.
Ing Hay’s great-grandnephew, Robert M. Wah, MD, served as president of the American Medical Association in 2015. The call to work as a healer continues in this family.
$23,000 worth of uncashed checks were found under Ing Hay’s bed. They would be worth about $250,000 in today’s dollars. Some think he never cashed them because he knew his patients couldn’t afford to pay the bills.
To view a 2015 Emmy nominated documentary about Kam Wah Chung produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting, see Oregon Experience – Kam Wah Chung. The personal stories recounted by people who knew Ing Hay and Lung On helps to bring the history of this remarkable place to life.
This is a reprint of a June 2019 article in High Desert Voices, a newsletter by and for volunteers and staff at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. To see more issues of the newsletter, go here.
The sand lily, also known as the star lily, is a delicate perennial wildflower found in western North America. It grows in sagebrush deserts, open montane forests, and in sandy and rocky soils.
The plant above is growing near sagebrush in an uncultivated part of my property near Bend, Oregon. There is only one plant and I look forward to it blooming every spring.
I have seen “fields” of sand lily growing in other locations. This field was seen on a hike near Tumalo dam.
Last year I planted two sand lily plants I purchased at WinterCreek Restoration and Nursery and they bloomed a couple weeks ago. This nursery specializes in native plants that use little water.
If you see sand lilies in nature, you may be tempted to dig them up to plant in your yard. Unfortunately, this plant, with its long rhizome growing beneath the soil, does not transfer well.
Please enjoy them in nature and purchase them from a trusted source. They will grow in USDA zones 5-9. They do well in rock gardens with lots of sunlight. Sand lilies require very little water to shine brightly in your garden.
Here’s a haiku about this plant I featured in a previous post – Tiny Oasis
These bold little white-crowned sparrows can raise or lower their “crown”, depending upon their mood. They occur throughout North America, but their bill color varies. It can be orange, yellow, or pink depending upon where they live.
They have a cheery and distinctive song that you may recognize. Listen to it here.
I immediately thought of this picture I took of a white sturgeon when I saw that this week’s photo challenge at Traveling at Wits End was Something that Doesn’t Belong.
In this photo, taken at the High Desert Museum, a young white sturgeon is surrounded by trout. It doesn’t quite fit in.
You might think this odd fish looks prehistoric and you’d be right. Sturgeon existed 200 million years ago, during the Jurassic period.
Though most sturgeon live 11-34 years, they have been known to live up to 104 years (!) They grow to an average length of 6.9 feet and sometimes grow to a length of 20 feet. The maximum weight recorded was 1,799 pounds. In fact, they are North America’s largest fish. So the fish in the picture may look small now, but it has a lot of growing to do!
Last June we happened to be in Tillamook, Oregon the day the new Tillamook Creamery visitor center opened.
They have 1.3 million visitors a year and the new 38,500 square foot facility is a welcome addition. The original visitor center opened in 1949. We visited that much smaller center years ago.
Yes, you can still watch them making delicious cheese and get samples, but there’s a lot more there now.
The new displays are interactive and informative.
I loved the layout of some of these displays. Crisp, bold, and bright. They are works of art.
Tillamook County Creamery Association creates the products you find in stores today. This co-op was formed in 1909 and there are almost 100 families in it now.
They have a big store with everything from clothing to specialty dairy products.
If that’s not enough, they also have a dining area with several options. You can get ice cream, yogurt with toppings, and a range of other choices. These include everything from tempura battered cheese curds (huh?) to mac and cheese, pizza, sandwiches, and a few breakfast items. I was pleasantly surprised to see the food at the center featured in a funny article in Food and Wine.
If you have the time, this is a stop worth making.
The sky takes on shades of orange during sunrise and sunset, the colour that gives you hope that the sun will set only to rise again.
We have many beautiful sunrises and sunsets here in Bend, Oregon. Sometimes the unique colors and forms of the clouds are totally unexpected and they’ll take your breath away. Here are a few of those moments my camera allowed me to capture.
The trailhead is 14 miles northwest of Dayville, Oregon. This trail is in the Sheep Rock Unit of the monument. The Island in Time trail is a 1.3 mile long out and back trail with an elevation gain of 200 feet. The Blue Basin Overlook trail also starts here. It’s a 3.25 mile trail with a 760 foot elevation gain. There are several other trails nearby.
The geologic history
The unique blue-green colors of the rock formations in Blue
Basin are stunning. They range from
a pale dinner mint green to a darker, bluer green. The blue-green and tan
claystones and siltstones are part of the John Day formation. There were multiple eruptions of Cascade
Mountain volcanoes 29 million years ago. The ashfall formed the blue-green
layers of this basin. Celandonite and clinoptilolite give these formations
their green color.
You’ll see impressive tiered layers of rock bordering the trail. At the end of the trail, an amphitheater of colorful stone will surround you. I had the place all to myself on my hike. Rotate your way around this photo sphere to see what I saw.
I also noticed the smaller landscapes on this trail. Here are a few of those scenes.
Fossil and facts on Blue Basin trail
You will see several fossil replicas covered with protective plastic bubbles along the trail. They removed the actual fossils to protect them from the elements. Over 2,000 species of plant and animal fossils have been identified in the vicinity.