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Oregon Trail Kiosk Tour

Clickable OT in OR

Oregon Trail Kiosk Tour
Local Links

Old Ft. Boise Snake River Crossing Old Ft. Boise Replica
Keeney Pass
Malheur River Vale, OR
Alkali springs Ontario
Farewell Bend Farewell Bend
Burnt River Canyon Weatherby Rest Area
Flagstaff Hill Baker Valley Rest Area National Historic O.T. Interpretive Center
North Powder
Ladd Hill Charles Reynolds Rest Area
La Grande Hilgard State Park
Blue Mountain Crossing Emigrant State Park

All these areas are clearly mentioned in the map, that help you visit the points sequentially. If the instructions are given clearly then you can follow the path and enjoy the scenery without worrying about getting lost. The instructions are very important, when the process is complex. Many people may not even pay attention to the small print and may miss out some crucial information.

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Deadman Pass Deadman Pass Umatilla Tribes
Corral Springs Pendleton Pendleton
Ft. Henrietta Stanfield Rest Area
Echo Meadows
Well Spring Well Spring
MacDonald Ford Arlington, OR
Deschutes River Crossing Deschutes River Crossing
The Dalles Memaloose Rest Area
Hood River/Cascade Locks
Government Camp
Sandy, OR – Jonsrud Viewpt.
Foster’s Farm
Baker Cabin
End of the O. T. Interpretive Center
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
Whitman Mission NHS Homepage

Malheur River

Just out of Keeney Pass the emigrants camped at the Malheur River near present-day  Vale, OR. The name seems to mean evil hour (bad fortune). It was named by the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Peter Skene Ogden, who lost cached furs here in 1825. And it was unlucky for the people who followed Stephen H. L. Meek’s unfortunate cut-off  in 1845.

“The Trail carried us over another sage plain 14 miles to Malure (sic) River a dirty deep stream running to the N.E. with a fine large dry vally covered in strong coarse grass and small willows     a hot spring comming out on E. Shore under a high cliff of volcanic rocks..” (James Clyman, 1844)In 1853, some families took the Free Emigrant Route straight across to Eugene.
“…we came 12 miles over very dusty road to the Malheur River again crossing one valley with no water   camped beside the river   cooked and eat under the willows. It was a beautiful place to me at least   pack up and start today again like as many gypsies.   I feel very lost without the rest of the company. [who took the old route]
” (Agnes Stewart Warner, 1853)

Malheur River Locator Map

Malheur River
OAG = DeLorme’s Oregon Atlas & Gazetteer
 = Franzwa’s Maps of the Oregon Trail
 = Franzwa’s Oregon Trail Revisited

Follow Franzwa’s directions North out of Vale toward Alkali Springs. In my opinion, this section of the trip should not be attempted on a solo journey. It is up and over Tub Hill on dirt roads. I traveled it last year and it wasn’t too bad. It’s 22 miles of rough road and should only be tackled when dry. There were plenty of BLM OT markers up there. And plenty of cows. It’s okay to travel up there but the rule is to leave gates the way you find them.

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If you go over to Farewell Bend by the highway you will have an opportunity to go a short way up the hill where you can look down across the ruts leading to the Snake River. There are good accommodations there and a great State Park.

Ladd Hill

The Oregon Trail descended into the Grande Ronde Valley from Ladd Canyon Hill near LaGrande. The ruts are harder to find every year. Farm roads and pipeline scars are often misleading. The traces just to the left of the light pole are from the 1868 road which replaced the trail. The Oregon Trail is even further left and virtually invisible today. Consult Powerful Rockey by Jack Evans p. 85.

Six years before the first date on this sign, Narcissa Whitman rode  her sidesaddle through here and wrote:

“We decend a very steep hill in coming into the Grand Round at the foot of which is a beautiful cluster of pine trees…It is a circular plain surrounded  with lofty mountains and has a beautiful stream coursing through it.”

Hot Lake

Hot Lake

Peter Burnett, on that first major migration in 1843 wrote:

“In this region may also be found the most wonderful creations of nature, existent in the world.

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this is a pond, or well, of boiling salt water, hot enough for cooking purposes, and bottomless in its depths. The steam arising from it may be seen at the distance of seferal miles, and resembles the vapor arising from a salt furnace.”

Ladd Hill
OAG = DeLorme’s Oregon Atlas & Gazetteer
 = Franzwa’s Maps of the Oregon Trail
 = Franzwa’s Oregon Trail Revisited

Charles Reynolds Rest Area quotes to go here.

Keeney Pass

This Jim Tompkins photo shows one of the still visible swales, marked by a BLM carsonite post. A BLM kiosk has several good interpretive panels, and a short hike to the top of a hill lets us look back upon a days travel, about 15 miles. 15 hot and dusty miles.

“… Since crossing to this side of the Snake river again the road has been fearfully dusty. In fact, a person who has never traveled these wormwood barrens can form no idea as to what depth dust may be cut up in them by the passing of a few wagons.

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To a person walking in the road it is frequently more than shoe deep, and if the wind happens to blow lengthwise of the road, it raises such a fog that you cannot see the next wagon in front.” (James Fields, 1845) 

Keeney Pass; looking backThis dry and dusty route spelled death for one John D. Henderson, 1n 1852. The legend is that he died of thirst a few yards from water, but for the real story go to our Trail Graves page. Keeney Pass is named for Jonathan Keeney,  who established a trading post on the  nearby Malheur River in 1863 . Lytle Boulevard is likely named for 1860 pioneer Andrew Lytle, who settled in Prineville. If anyone can shed more light on this name please contact the webmaster:        

Keeney Pass

OAG = DeLorme’s Oregon Atlas & Gazetteer
 = Franzwa’s Maps of the Oregon Trail
 = Franzwa’s Oregon Trail Revisited

Continuing toward the town of Vale, you will pass a sign at Sand Hollow Rd., which will lead you to John D. Henderson’s grave.

I have named the next stop Malheur River (click the red dot or the name) rather than Vale, because it is more in keeping with names the emigrants used. The river, with its hot springs, made an ideal camping spot. The town of Vale has beautiful murals depicting area history on many of its buildings .

Second Umatilla Crossing

“Traveled 17 miles 4 to the river   the roads fork near the river   one takes down the Columbia the other crosses the Eumatilla and keeps up from the Columbia bottom   here we found a trading post and men employed in building an indian agency   the information that we could get was that the left hand road was much the best road and grass but water scarce. (Susan Amelia Cranston, Aug 17, 1851).
They must have been nearly done for only 3 weeks later Charles A. Brandt wrote: 
“Came to the Agency. Here is the first frame house we have seen in Oregon. Here we heard of the Promised Land. Could see the snow capped tops of the Mounts St. Helen’s and Ranier. Clear day. Sunday.”

.Ft. Henrietta

This bastion replica memorializes the army post which was built across the Umatilla River from present Echo, OR by Major Mark Chinn in 1855. It was named for the wife of his commander , Major Granville Haller. Excavation has found many bullets and broken clay pipes.

This is one territory that is not well known to people or explored by tourists. People feel lost when they travel alone and without much information available in terms of maps and guide books. Very few people have the courage to follow unusual paths or create a new trail for others to follow. Even when it comes to business world, people end up following the old and tested methods of making money. They are scared to change or even check out new aspects of business, just because they fear losing money in the process or being ridiculed by others.

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Ft. Henrietta Locator Map


OAG = DeLorme’s  Oregon Atlas & Gazetteer
MOT = 
Franzwa’s Maps of the Oregon Trail
OTR = 
Franzwa’s Oregon
 Trail Revisited 1997

Word Games: According to the Oregon Geographic Names Umatilla is the Indian word for river, so when we say Umatilla River we are really saying river River. Let me see, now. What’s my PIN number?

The Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail & Alternates The Oregon Trail in Oregon had several alternates. Everybody was looking for a shorter route. On the map only the Oregon Trail is hooked up. Use the following links for these active sites
OT Interpretive Kiosk Tour
Leslie Wischman’s California Trail
Trail Site Cross Reference Grid

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The other sites are all under construction, and probably will be all summer. The weather is getting too good to sit in front of the computer all day. I will be out on the trails gathering more material. If you have some pictures or information about these trails please send them to me.

Tom Laidlaw