When people think of the Oregon Trail, many initially recall the old computer game where players used math to restock supplies and hunted elk by typing “BANG.” But for 400,000 settlers in the mid-1800s, the reality was a 2,000-mile adventure that stretched from Missouri to Oregon City, half an hour southeast of Portland. At the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and Historic Site visitors can learn about their journeys and discover what it was like to be a pioneer.
Made up of several buildings beneath giant wagon frames, the Interpretive Center contains hands-on exhibits where costumed interpreters describe the challenges of packing for the cross-country trek. Little explorers are free to get hands-on with history here by dressing up, packing a wagon and trying their hands at pioneer crafts and activities like candle making. The “Bound for Oregon” video presentation and other exhibits also immerse visitors in historic tales and explain how Oregon City was the end of the trail for many because it was where land claims were granted for Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Wyoming.
The historic site is also home to the Country Store, where authentic keepsakes and locally made goods — like beaded items from Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde natives — are available for sale. The native spirit is also celebrated at the Master Gardener’s Pioneer Garden, where plants and heirloom roses similar to those found in 1860s Oregon are on display. Expertly researched, the specimen roses are attended by master gardeners, who make presentations on plant life in pioneer times, a topic that, like Oregon, is still green today.