Arts and Culture

Eastern Oregon offers 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. 

Click the drop downs below for information on Arts and Culture opportunities in Eastern Oregon.

Pictured (right and above) is Sumpter Valley Railroad. The photo is courtesy of SVRR, Inc.

Arts and Culture

National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

The story of Eastern Oregon culture and history would only be complete with 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. 

Kam Wah Chung & Co. Museum

The Kam Wah Chung & Co. Museum is a National Historic Landscape 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 worldwide. 

Grant County Historical Museum

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. 

Sumpter Valley Railroad Restoration

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 (SVRR) offers trips from the McEwen Depot outside Baker City to Sumpter on six miles of railroad tracks. Depots at both ends include restroom facilities, picnic and parking areas. 

Two historic steam locomotives in operation include Heisler #3, a geared logging locomotive built in 1915 and the only narrow gauge wood logging locomotive in existence. The SVRR owns two other locomotives not in regular use. Locomotive #19 is a 2-8-2 rod locomotive built in 1920, but it requires significant repair and restoration. A diesel locomotive #720 built by General Electric in the 1950s is used as a backup or when fire danger is high.

The SVRR operates on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day weekend until the end of October and is perfect for tourists,  railroad enthusiasts, historians and photographers with special photography trains, engineer-for-a-day opportunities, cab rides and special charters.

Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area

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.

Eastern Oregon Regional Theatre

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.

Geiser Grand Hotel

Baker City’s Geiser Grand Hotel originally opened in 1889 during Oregon's booming mining and timber industry. The Victorian-style hotel has been restored and received the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Honor Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation.