Monday, September 10, 2018

End of the Oregon Trail

There is a nice garden display and
plenty of outdoor seating for a picnic.
Our visit to the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive and Visitor Information Center in Oregon City, Oregon.

I never played the Oregon Trail computer game when I was a kid. But I've been fascinated by the Oregon Trail most of my life. Some day I'm going to devote a vacation to traveling the the modern day route and visit all of the sites and museums along the way. But while we are here in Oregon, I can at least say that I visited the end of the trail.

The early history of the state of Oregon can be generalized in decades. The fur trappers were here in the 1810s to 1820s, setting up forts and trading posts. The missionaries arrived and created their stations in the 1830s. From 1840 was the time of the settlers and farmers. Thousands of them arrived by the Oregon trail that ran from the area around Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, in the Willamette Valley of Oregon Territory. It is estimated that over 50,000 emigrants traveled the trail until 1869 when the transcontinental railroad was completed.

What tools would you take with
you on the trail?
Oregon City is just up the Willamette River from the Columbia, at the base of Willamette Falls. This community literally was the end of the trail, where people could rest, resupply, and find out more information on available land before they headed south to homestead in the Willamette Valley, a prime agricultural area. In fact, Oregon City was at one time the territorial capital of Oregon, that is, before it was moved to ever growing Portland and the junction of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. Now Oregon City is at the edge of the Portland metro area.

At the end of your tour, find out
how travelers fared in Oregon.
The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive and Visitor Information Center is first and foremost a museum with three sections. The first section concerns preparing to take the trail. This includes a theater presentation with an outstanding docent and a well done film. The second section presents displays concerning the difficulty of the trail. In this section you are introduced to actual travelers on the trail and here their voices through the diaries and letters they left behind. The third section is a recreation of a general store at the end of the trail. You are able to sit and view a PowerPoint on a big screen that tells you about the travelers you learned about in the second section and how they fared in Oregon.

"You have died of dysentery"
on the Oregon Trail.
As every "museum aficionado" knows, a great museum has a great gift shop. At the End of the Oregon Trail gift shop they have a very good selection of books, T-shirts, plush animals as well as snacks and drinks. It does double duty as a visitor information center for other attractions in the city. The folks who worked there were super nice and informative. Okay, I have to admit that we really cleaned out the gift shop. I bought three books, a t-shirt, and a little stuffed bison to sit on my bookshelf.

My very own office bison!
So the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive and Visitors Center gets an A++ and five star rating. If you are traveling to Portland on vacation, please add this site to your list of must sees. If you have kids, then move it higher on the list. ;-)