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Girls dressed in pioneer garb with white bonnets tend garden enclosed in split rail fence at historic Philip Foster Farm
Molly Johnson | 07/05/2021 | Arts & Heritage

History Comes To Life In Oregon's Mt. Hood Territory

Please check any museums' open hours before visiting, as COVID is still impacting open hours.

As the official end of the Oregon Trail, Mt. Hood Territory has a storied history which comes to life at our museums and interpretive centers. 

2018 marked the 175th anniversary of the Oregon Trail, and for the tens of thousands of pioneers who made the journey, Mt. Hood Territory was the land at “Eden’s Gate” they traveled for months trying to reach. Places like Philip Foster Farm, along the famed Barlow Road section of the Oregon Trail, was the stop weary travelers saw as the first place of civilization where they could rest in months. Today guests can see a working blacksmith shop, general store and try their hand at the day-to-day chores and activities that pioneer children experienced. 

The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive & Visitor Information Center is located at the very spot Oregon Trail pioneers camped in Oregon City as they waited for their land claims. This interactive museum shines a spotlight on the stories of several pioneers who kept records of their journey. Families can also try fun activities like candle making to get a quick feel for life back in the 1800s. That experience even has an outdoor exhibit called the Overland Tour. Families can tour through the Oregon Trail Experience Interpretive Trail, which includes replicas of common animals they'd encounter, famous landmarks seen along the journey, also includes a tour guide who will act as the wagon master, guiding visitors through several activities designed to bring the Oregon Trail to life. 

One of the activities challenges kids to pack a wagon as if they were embarking on the epic trek. It's not as easy as it sounds, considering the limited weight one has to work with, and the sheer amount of food and supplies needed to keep the family stocked up for the journey. It's a fun experience that helps teach kids the history of Oregon.

Two young teens pose behind a photo board of a pioneer couple as Dad takes their photo at End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

Nearby is the Museum of the Oregon Territory which overlooks the historic Willamette Falls. They have hands-on exhibits, which help to keep kids interested as they learn about the region’s history from the ancient to the more recent. Their new rotating exhibit, Lines on the Land, uses historic maps, survey equipment and journals to introduce guests to the formation of the current boundaries of Clackamas County (Mt. Hood Territory). Learn about the cataclysmic Missoula Floods, which shaped the territory into what it is today, or the railroad lines which connected Oregon’s many far reaching communities to the rest of the world.  

The Mt. Hood Territory Heritage Trail app can help guide you around to these and many more of The Territory’s great historical spots. You can download the app for free for both iPhones and Android devices when you visit to explore more of the region's fascinating stories. 

Check out the Dibble and Von der Ahe Houses in Molalla and learn about the famous apple trees and apple vinegar or head to the Lake Oswego Iron Smelter to take in this giant furnace structure in a park setting. If you head up the mountain you can stop into the Sandy Historical Museum which borders the very site of the Barlow Road and was the last leg of the Oregon Trail. The town of Sandy was named after the nearby Sandy River, which was originally identified as the quick sand river by Lewis & Clark so the history living at this site is plentiful. Once up the mountain you can visit the Mt. Hood Cultural Center & Museum and learn how the town of Government Camp got its name and experience the enlightening exhibits. 

Once you are done blazing your own trail, recharge your batteries at everything from historic lodges to charming bed & breakfasts so you can hit the trail ready to explore even more the next day.

Molly Johnson grew up in Mt. Hood Territory and loves getting to write content inspiring others to visit her beloved home. 

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