Eastern Oregon may not grab the headlines like other Pacific Northwest regions, but experienced travelers know what the locals do: Eastern Oregon has a vibrant mix of outdoor recreational opportunities and cultural entertainment. From skiing the highest base elevation in Oregon to hiking through pristine mountain ranges, outdoor enthusiasts will find the awe-inspiring activities they seek. Those seeking cultural adventures can visit historic railroad and gold mining operations. Those are just a few exciting and memorable adventures in Eastern Oregon - read on for more!
Active outdoor enthusiasts flock to the region for the majestic mountains, sparkling lakes and rivers, hiking and biking trails and more that lend to four seasons of outdoor activities. Thousands of acres of public land offer backpacking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, scenic road trips and more.
Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort is the most well-known center of outdoor recreation and year-round family fun in Eastern Oregon. Just off I-84 in the Blue Mountains between La Grande and Baker City, the resort is a popular draw for skiing in the winter, which at 7,100 feet, is the highest base elevation in Oregon. Summer brings many opportunities like camping, hiking, mountain biking and more.
Hiking enthusiasts seek out the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness for its hundreds of trails traversing the rugged high country, inspiring vistas and phenomenal fishing. Hunters and wildlife viewers find many species of animals, including Rocky Mountain Elk. The Blue Mountains are also home to the Mount Emily Recreation Area, which has separate motorized and non-motorized areas to challenge all levels of cyclists, ATV enthusiasts, mountain bikers and horse riders.
Bird lovers will appreciate the grandeur of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 187,000 acres of crucial wildlife habitat set aside by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. The Refuge is an essential stop along the Pacific Flyway as a resting, breeding and nesting area for hundreds of thousands of birds and other wildlife.
The Blue Mountain Scenic Byway allows nature lovers to appreciate the entire area in a 150-mile day trip without ever leaving the car!
Man-made recreation includes many phenomenal opportunities in the region, with five golf courses and multiple swimming pools. Sports enthusiasts are drawn to the John Day Sports Complex for baseball, softball and soccer tournaments throughout the three snow-free seasons.
Eastern Oregon offers an oasis of entertainment and educational opportunities for history buffs and culture seekers. The region is alive with live performances, museums, community festivals, fairs and celebrations that offer a glimpse into the past and present.
The story of Eastern Oregon culture and history would not be complete without a visit to the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City. While the building is currently under renovation, exhibits have been moved temporarily to the nearby Baker Heritage Museum. The Center presents a complete resource on the Oregon Trail and its pioneers through demonstrations, programs, exhibits, special events and interpretive trails. Burns, Grant, Harney and Union County each have museums filled with historical records of life dating back to the pioneer days.
The Kam Wah Chung & Co. Museum is a National Historic Landscape initially built as a trading post in 1865. Thousands of Chinese immigrants came to the United States, with hundreds settling in John Day as the gold rush and mining and railroad expansion boomed in the 1880s. At its height, the Chinese population was the third-highest in the country, behind San Francisco and Portland. Today, the museum is the largest intact collection of Chinese medicine and formulas in the world.
Gold played a significant role in the development of towns throughout Eastern Oregon, dating back to the 1860s. Millions of dollars of gold were mined beginning in the 1860s in towns like Canyon City and Sumpter. The Grant County Historical Museum offers a glimpse into life in the times when more people lived in Canyon City than in Portland! One of the best ways to visualize the scale of the mining operations is in Sumpter, once called the “Queen City” for the amount of gold taken from the ground there. The Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area displays one of the historic Sumpter Gold Dredges, essentially a shallow-hulled ship on land but operating on an artificial pond of water it supplied. The massive machinery processed large quantities of earth, removing gold and discarding the leftover earth tailings.
Railroad enthusiasts can ride actual steam and diesel locomotives that were part of the region's history over 100 years ago at the Sumpter Valley Railroad. As a non-profit operating tourist railroad, Sumpter Valley Railroad Restoration offers trips from the McEwen Depot outside Baker City to Sumpter on the railroad tracks it built.
Theater fans will appreciate the excellent talent found throughout Eastern Oregon, such as that at the Eastern Oregon Regional Theatre. Customers have been treated to everything from Shakespeare to children’s theatre since its inception in Baker City in 2003. The volunteer company also provides live theater to rural communities throughout Eastern Oregon.
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