Oregon has a rich history filled with diverse stories from cultures that thrived here for centuries and others that came over the Oregon Trail. These tales are told and retold at numerous heritage sites, museums and interpretive centers to help keep the past alive. Bethany Nemec with The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive & Visitor Center in Oregon City is one of the people who dedicates her days to bringing those stories to life.
History comes alive
Bethany truly is a modern pioneer, and "not just because I wear the clothes" she joked, while dressed in period garb between tours. Bethany is a trained educator and a lover of history. Her family actually crossed the Trail in 1853; it's their story that inspired her to make a career out of keeping history relevant.
George Washington Gibson, pioneer and ancestor of modern pioneer Bethany Nemec.
"What gets me motivated every morning to wake up and get dressed like this is that history is a really interesting topic that I want to help more people be excited about. It's not just dates and names to memorize, it's stories about people that had real experiences that can be really inspiring today and help us connect to who we are."
The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center is just one of the locations throughout our area where history is brought to life. You can take a look at the other great museums and heritage locations, or craft a tour using our free Mt. Hood Territory Heritage Trail app. You'll be guided to more than two dozen sites throughout the region, each with a unique audio story about the location and how it became a significant part of the area's lore. There are even walking, cycling and driving options that guide you along a path of historical discovery, as well as showing you nearby attractions and restaurants.
Family fun experiences
As someone who is a trained educator, Bethany knows the importance, and difficulty, of capturing and keeping someone's attention. Especially kids. So she and the rest of the team have created a museum with exhibits that aren't just meant to be looked at, but experienced.
"Kids often need some hands-on activities and quirky facts to really engage them. We offer candle dipping, butter making and a lot of the things that were chores back then, but kids today find as really fun activities. They can load a wagon, actually dress up in pioneer clothes, and that plays a big role in helping kids connect to that history and learning that we're not all that different today."
The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center is just one of several spots in The Territory where kids can engage in hands-on learning. The Museum of the Oregon Territory has an augmented reality exhibit that keeps kids (and their parents) engaged. They also have an exhibit that helps kids recreate the first long-distance power transmission from Willamette Falls to Portland. Another popular option is the Philip Foster Farm, with enough to see and do to fill an entire day of fun. This farm dates back to the Barlow Road section of the Oregon Trail itself, and served as the final supply stop for weary travelers ready to start the final leg of their journey. Today it's a living piece of history, with much of the original farm still as it was well over 100 years ago.
If you really want to tune up their experience, head over to World of Speed Motorsports Museum in Wilsonville. Three racing simulators will give them a realistic feel of what it's like on the racetrack, while the Starting Line Club will teach younger kids the science behind cars and racing. All of this is combined with immersive exhibits showcasing the history of all things fast. Afterwards, slow down a bit and take a ride back in history aboard the Canby Ferry, one of the last operating ferries on the Willamette River.
It's important that our history is remembered. The work of people like Bethany and so many others has ensured that future generations will add their voices to the stories that are told about Mt. Hood Territory.
Colorful Flowers To See This Summer
As the sun comes out, it beckons the flower buds to awaken from their slumber across Mt. Hood Territory. It's a beautiful sight to see when spring turns to summer and, over the course of those months,...
Late spring and summer are ideal times to hit the hiking trails if you love wildflowers. We curated a list of seven great hikes that will help add a little color to your life, as you hike in Mt. Hood...
Getting outside is so therapeutic for the soul and being able to stay out where you are adventuring overnight is not only more convenient, its even more soul nourishing. There is nothing quite like sl...
As we continue to mark the 175th anniversary of the Oregon Trail, some people showcase the history of the famed migration every day. Bethany Nemec with The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center...
Adventuring near the water is beloved in Oregon's Mt. Hood Territory. Hanging out at the lake, making memories with friends and family and enjoying the views is a dream. But which lake is best for you...