A group of grade school children all moaned, “Ew!” in unison
upon learning what buffalo chips are really made of (dried buffalo
dung). And the girls in the group made the same noise when the tour
guide explained that the marrying age for pioneer women was as
young as 10. Clearly the target audience was entertained.
The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, just outside
Portland, hosts some 14,000 schoolchildren a year, telling the
history of those who made the 2,000-mile trek west along Oregon
Trail in search of land and a better life.
While Oregon is known to tourists as an eco-destination, the state
is also promoting its past as the famed Oregon Trail ended here.
And clients looking for a lesson (especially those with kids in
tow) might want to spend a couple of hours exploring the
Beginning in the 1840s more than 300,000 people began their Oregon
Trail journey. Along with exhibiting artifacts and heirlooms from
the trail and pioneer life, the center also shows “Bound for
Oregon,” a half-hour original movie meant to bring history to life
using the words and experiences of those who made the trek in fact,
much of the film’s dialogue is pulled directly from journals
This digital-cinema experience, unique to the center, is narrated
by the “virtual” character Dr. John McLoughlin, who did indeed,
help pioneers. In hologram-like form, McLoughlin tells the tales
the of four real-life pioneers, including a Native American and a
young girl who recalls how one sibling was buried and another was
born within a small stretch of her family’s journey.
The show also includes a few moments of shocking flashes meant to
simulate a storm. Clients sensitive to light or those with certain
health problems might want to sit this one out.
The Interpretive Center also offers a set made to look like a
depot where pioneers would shop for supplies before their travels
complete with common quantities and prices. The Willamette Trades
& Craft Workshop features hands-on activities, where kids can
pack a wagon with supplies. For those who would like to take a
piece of history home, the gift shop sells a variety of heritage
items and Northwest handcrafts.
The Interpretive Center is open Monday to Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-5
p.m., and a schedule of activities and tours can be found online.
Admission is $9 for adults, $5 for children ages 5 to 17 and free
for children under 5.