Traveling the Oregon Trail--part 2
Part 1 of the Oregon Trail took us as far as Baker City OR. The state of Oregon has provided great Oregon Trail pavilions/kiosks all along the ways to the End of the Oregon Trail. This next section of the trail includes info/photos from Haines OR to Fort Vancouver WA via the Columbia River, including:
Here are some links for a quick review/overview of the Oregon Trail:
An option to driving west from Baker City on I-84 (actually, 84 is traveling north-south between Baker & La Grande), is to travel the back way (Hwy 30) to get to the tiny hamlet of Haines OR. Along the main street is a long park or two that have historic cabins and historic information, as well as picnicking and a bus stop. Turn east on 3rd St to get to Eastern Oregon Museum. It has such limited hours I haven't managed to get there yet.
North Powder OR--roughly 1500 mi from Independence MO on today's roads, about 1700 mi on the OR Trail
Travel north on Hwy 30 from Haines, or north on I-84 from Baker City to the small community of North Powder. As you exit I-84, you'll be on 2nd St. A left on E St takes you past the library, the fire dept, and a cute little church. Continue north on 2nd St and it becomes Hwy 237, the back way to Union OR. See also
Union OR--Union County Museum
Union has a great museum (3 or 4 buildings) of local history, including a good collection of cowboy displays, Victorian life, antiques, and exhibits highlighting natural and Native American history. They had a copy of the excellent reference Maps of the Oregon Trail by Gregory M. Franzwa, copyright 1982, and Powerful Rockey: The Blue Mountains and the Oregon Trail by John W. Evans, copyright 1990, (which I bought, it also includes maps). For more info and photos of Union OR, see
Charles H. Reynolds Rest Area just east of La Grande OR
Located just at the foot of the mountains as you enter the Grande Ronde Valley on I-84, it's a little east of where Hwy 203 from Union OR meets I-84. About "the Blues", the Blue Mountains:
La Grande OR--25 mi through Ladd Canyon from North Powder OR
I tried to follow the signs from I-84 to the Oregon Trail site . . . it was confusing. I finally found the little marker at B Ave & Cedar St: it's just on the corner of somebody's yard. Very near there is Birnie Park, with a path of Oregon Trail monuments and a symbolic (un)covered wagon climbing structure.
Hilgard Junction State Park OR
Their site says the restrooms are flushing and accessible. There are two parts of the park--one on either side of the road. The park is right on the Grande Ronde River, swim with care.
Blue Mountain Crossing, 9 mi west of La Grande OR
I had a hard time finding this place, instructions don't seem clear. Here's my stab at it: take exit 248 off I-84; at the stop sign veer to the right toward Kamela, going NW on Old Emigrant Hill Scenic Frontage Rd a ways til it goes under the highway and crosses Dry Creek, then take a right on Oregon Trail Road, 1843--it's not far off I-84, only 3 mi total, I think. I was so enthused because it's supposed to be a handicapped accessible trail with interpretive signs, but I was sadly disappointed, because unfortunately it was closed when I went.
UPDATE after Aug 2022 trip home from Boise--Blue Mountain Crossing was better marked, and open, to my delight!
Meacham OR--20 to 25 mi west of La Grande OR, mountain town near the pass
I've seen the signs for Meacham indicating an Oregon Trail site, but with no mention how far off the highway it is, I didn't dare start a tangent I'd be sorry for. On the map it doesn't look that far. Take exit 238 off I-84 and follow the signs to Meacham, the road to Meacham parallels the highway for awhile, becomes old Hwy 30. There is a sign "Historical Marker Ahead" as you round the bend and come downhill to parallel the RR tracks. A little further there's a sign for the historical marker pointing to the right off the road (before you come to Main St which is to the right and crosses the RR tracks).
Emigrant Springs State Park--26 mi west of La Grande, 24 mi east of Pendleton (2.5 mi west of Meacham)
Mid way between Pendleton & La Grande, up in the cool (or cold snowy) mountains, Emigrant Springs is a pleasant place to visit in summer, picnic, learn more about the Oregon Trail, camp, ride horses, take in the beauty of tall timber . . .
Deadman Pass Rest Area--just before heading down the steep hills into the Pendleton area
Whitman Mission and Fort Walla Walla, Walla Walla WA
The Whitmans were important in the development of the Oregon Trail from a trader/trapper track to a wagon road. After only a couple years the main Oregon Trail did not include the tangental trip to the mission, except for those in necessity. After the mission was attacked through the clash of cultures and misunderstandings, it was abandoned. There are yet a few memories of the genesis of the Oregon Trail in the Walla Walla area, and at Fort Walla Walla museum.
Whitman Mission National Historic Site, Walla Walla WA
The Tamastslikt Cultural Institute and Pendleton OR
Descending Emigrant Hill has improved even since I was a child, imagine how it would have been in a covered wagon without a paved road or an efficient braking system! But no doubt the view was as spectacular then as it is now.
At the bottom of that hill is the comprehensive Arrowhead Travel Plaza, Wildhorse Casino Resort, and the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, a museum of the region's Native Americans. Part of its presentation is the effect of the Oregon Trail on Native Americans. Very interesting exhibits, including both sights and sounds. Unfortunately, they ask that no photos or recordings be taken of the exhibits. They generally have an annual Pow Wow, and other events. I believe they participate in the Pendleton Round-up each year.
Echo OR (a bit south of I-84), and Echo Meadows (where ruts can be seen)
Last I was there, Echo was a pretty cute little town. There's an Oregon Trail driving tour through Echo, I tried it 2-3 times and was only partly successful. Not enough signs and no mileage clues. A map with key and annotations/directions is available from the the city and/or museum (which has limited hours--you can request them to mail brochures), but I haven't had a chance to try it out since I obtained the brochure. I did at least find Echo Meadows, though I didn't have the energy to get out of the car at the time.
Stanfield Rest Area, 20 mi west of Pendleton on I-84
I happened to have gone to the eastbound pull-off when I stopped for photos. Here's a link to a map of Oregon Rest Areas, listed by route, with amenities:
Cecil OR--14 mi south on Hwy 74, from I-84 (between Arlington and Boardman)
I saw the sign for an Oregon Trail site 13 mi south on Hwy 74 (not every sign is so nice about giving mileage), so on a whim I took off. I didn't know at the time that Cecil was only another mile, and might have had some kind of marker. But, I got some photos of the one 13 mi from the freeway.
Arlington OR--73 mi west of Pendleton via I-84
If you and/or the kids need a nice break on the drive along the Columbia River (I-84), Arlington has a great park with lots of fun amenities. Of interest to this post is the Oregon Trail pavilion. For more info and photos of Arlington, see the beginning of the topmost post below. From Arlington you can take Hwy 19 south to get to another Old Oregon Trail site, and off 19 it looks like you can get to the Oregon Trail Fourmile Canyon Historic Site
Note: more info/photos about several of the places below can also be found at
Columbia Hills State Park, Maryhill Museum, & Maryhill State Park WA
Across the Columbia River from the Oregon Trail are other views of the trail. For more info, see
Biggs Junction OR & Deschutes River State Recreation Area
Biggs Junction is mostly a travel & truck stop with appropriate services thereto. Dated 7-16-2022: EZ Trip travel plaza had Shell gas (I think), convenience store, and Subway. Pilot Trave Center had gas, convenience store, McDonalds, and Cinnabon. TA Express had Chevron, convenience store, Krispy Krunch Chicken, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. Dinty's Market & Deli, across from EZ Trip travel plaza, also had a motel. Circle K with 76 gas (I think) is next to Dinty's. Next to TA Express is Three Rivers Inn. All the travel centers had facilities and space for trucks/big rigs. Up the hill from EZ Trip was a truck repair. The Mini Mart was closed. Biggs Nu Vu motel looked like it wasn't open, but was being painted, so maybe it was or would be.
Deschutes River State Recreation Area seems an oasis--a pleasant green place to picnic, camp, hike on the east side of the Deschutes, boat ramp on the west side of the Deschutes. Waterfowl to be seen either side.
The Oregon Trail route along the Deschutes River is still visible--we saw it on the way back to Maupin OR after our river rafting ride . . . below is the link to that adventure:
The Dalles OR--126 mi west of Pendleton via I-84
The Dalles has a series of murals, some of which depict the Oregon Trail. On the west end of town the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center shares a building with the Wasco County Historical Museum. The former covers a wide range of historic, prehistoric, natural and human history. The latter focuses more on local history. They have a raptor program as well. The space is available as an event venue. We were very much anticipating an exciting community event in the fall a few years ago, but it was cancelled due to COVID. I hope another year we can recoup that loss!
Memaloose rest area & campground, west of The Dalles OR
Access is only westbound. If traveling east, take exit 76 and travel west on I-84 for 3 mi. There are picnic tables, including at least a couple with windbreaks, right along the river, but high above it. There's an accessible picnic table right at the parking lot of the rest stop, to get to the ones along the river involves some fairly steep declines (inclines on the way back to your vehicle), so a person in a wheelchair may need a pusher or a motor. More about the campground at
Hood River—about 150 mi west of Pendleton by modern roads, that is, I-84
The 4-fold flyer “End of the Oregon Trail Loop Tour” says there’s a “Dog River” (now called “Hood River”) interpretive exhibit the Hood River Info Center can give information about, and “Hood River County Historical Museum--The Oregon Trail is featured including an exhibit of covered wagon models,” in Hood River. My annotated map “The Oregon Trail: Following the route of the Oregon Trail in Oregon” also mentions Hood River.
“End of the Oregon Trail Loop Tour” says there’s a “Cascade Wayside Exhibit –Interpretive exhibit of the treacherous voyage down river.” There’s a Historical Museum in Cascade Locks, but it’s not wheelchair accessible. “The Oregon Trail: Following the route of the Oregon Trail in Oregon” says, “Many emigrants portaged their goods around the Cascades of the Columbia. It is difficult to imagine the treacherous series of rapids and cataracts quieted today by dams.”
“The Oregon Trail: Following the route of the Oregon Trail in Oregon” says, "By the late 1840s, most emigrants choosing the water route moved away from the Columbia at the mouth of the Sandy River and continued overland. Two interpretive signs at the main entrance to the Columbia Gorge Factory Stores and another at the Harlow House, one of Troutdale’s oldest homes, describe Troutdale’s place on the Oregon Trail and its history as the gateway to the eastern Willamette Valley.”
Fort Vancouver WA
Many pioneers of the Oregon Country stopped over for supplies at Fort Vancouver on the north side of the Columbia River (goods raised or made at the fort, or shipped clear around the southern tip of South America). Remember, many had had to lighten their load and leave precious items along the trail or barter them with Native Americans or at Forts along the way. From Fort Vancouver folks could cross the Columbia River to the south and make their way to settle in the fertile Willamette Valley. For more info and photos about Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, see
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I've been in a wheelchair for 30+ years. It poses some challenges for traveling. Maybe others can benefit from my experiences.