High Desert Museum
Six miles south of Bend is the High Desert Museum (59800 U.S. 97 S., 541/382-4754, www.highdesertmuseum.org, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily May–Oct., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. daily Nov.–Apr., $15 adults, $12 seniors, $9 ages 5–12, children ages 4 and under free). Although the admission may seem steep, this is an excellent indoor-outdoor museum that will take half a day to explore in detail. During the winter, admission prices drop by a few bucks.
Along the many trails that wind through the 150-acre facility, visitors can observe river otters at play, porcupines sticking it to each other, and birds of prey dispassionately watching over the whole scene. Replicas of a sheepherder’s cabin, a settler’s cabin, forestry displays, and other historical interpretations are also along the museum walkways. Join a naturalist for a nature walk or a meet-up with the museum’s raptors.
Inside the museum’s main building, unique exhibits, slide and movie shows, galleries, and pioneer history demonstrations are presented. The “desertarium” is a special delight full of native plants and populated by 37 small critters whose nocturnal lifestyles often keep them from view in the wild. Bats, lizards, mice, toads, snakes, and owls reveal that the desert is more alive than its superficially barren landscape might suggest.
The Earle A. Chiles Center exhibit on the spirit of the West features eight “you are there” life-sized dioramas. This walk through time begins 8,000 years ago beside a still marsh and takes you to a fur-brigade camp, into the depths of a gold mine, and down Main Street in a boisterous frontier town.
The Spirit of the West Gallery has representative arts and artifacts of the early American West, as well as tools, clothing, and other personal belongings from the 19th century. The Bounds collection of Native American artifacts and the Hall of Plateau Heritage balance out the museum’s coverage of the peoples of the high desert, while the Changing Forest exhibit addresses old-growth life cycles and other issues of forest ecology.
The Henry J. Casey Hall of Plateau Heritage, an 8,000-square-foot venue, showcases the Doris Swayze Bounds Native American artifact collection as well as other Native Americana.
As you might gather, the scope and interactive nature of this facility make it appealing for people who don’t usually like museums. If you end up staying longer than you expected, stop for lunch or a snack at the museum café.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel