October 7, 2013

A learning experience at the High Desert Museum

While we were in Sunriver, Oregon last month, we took a nice educational tour through the High Desert Museum.  We learned about the animals of Eastern Oregon, the traders that came through during the pioneer days, and what it was like to have to make it on your own during the gold rush.  Here is a little recap of what we saw.  

When you walk the pathway up to the museum, the brass sculptures of the animals that can be found in Eastern Oregon catch you eye.  Skylar liked the deer and the beavers the most.




The fist animal you see is the lynx.  His display shares a pain of glass that can be seen in the hallway of the museum.  He was very alert at everyone watching him.  

We spent a great deal of time in the printing press area of the museum.  We learned how newspapers back in the 1800s were created, and was delivered by way of the pony express.


The Native American exhibit was such a fascination to me.  I love learning anything that has to do with Indians, due to having family heritage that comes from American Indians. 




Through the Native American exhibit we ventured into the Pioneer/Civil War Exhibit of the museum. 



We learned that many of the settlers that didn't take part in the gold rush headed west to claim land throughout Oregon and Washington.  If you did any improvements to the land that you claimed, it was yours.

Most of the settlers ended up staying where they were planted in Oregon and throughout the Northwest.  The picture above is what a house "might" have looked like in the early 40s and 50s.  If you had a black and white television, you were lucky then.


Many of the settlers got lucky and had water flow through their land and gold was found, on a occasion, in the water.

Elaborate setups were put into place in hopes that gold would be found.  A lot of settlers, gold miners, and homesteaders got rich from just filtering the water for gold.

The old Pioneer Town setup within the museum was a lot of fun.  From the Chinese workers labor cabin, to the saddle, and banks, we pretended we lived during that time and spent about an hour in "town."

Next we headed through to the dinosaur exhibit.  We learned what types of dinosaurs roamed the dusty grounds of Eastern Oregon and Western Oregon.  T-Rex seems to find his way to every stretch of land in the U.S.

Skylar got to pretend he was a beaver too!  He loves beavers and thought this was one of the best features of the children's area in the museum.



The Western Painted Turtle and the Western Snapping Turtle exhibit brought about a lot of laughs.  These turtles really liked attention.

See!  Ha!

The Diamond-Back Rattle Snakes were characters as well.  They liked that we were watching them and showed us by "kissing" the glass.  Thank goodness for the glass.






We left the reptile exhibit and headed outside to the High Desert Ranger Station.  This station was an actual ranger station back in the 1800s and is still operational with it's equipment. 

The packs on the back wall were the exact same packs that many would grab to combat fires.  They had to investigate many fires in person to make sure it was big enough to call help.  The switchboard was used to communicate with the lookout that sat for hours in a tower that was located many miles from the actual rangers station.  

The go packs came with a shovel, axes, and prep that might be needed to put a small fire out.  Eastern Oregon is very dry during the summer months, but gets a lot of thunder storms that come with lightning.  The lightning was the cause of many fires that started without humans even around.  


There was always manuals and books on how to be the proper fireman.

The lookout in the tower would use a compass to pinpoint exactly where the fire was that he could see from his view.  The rangers station would mark the fire location that each lookout called the switch board to report.  They would then mark an area on the map that the fireman would have to grab their go packs and look for.  Most fires back then were put out with dirt or water from a nearby river, stream, or creek.

A lot of the fishing that took place in Oregon was fishing for sturgeon.  Sturgeon was a HUGE thing back in that time period because it was plentiful and it was easy to catch.  They are also big fish and would feed many people from just one catch.

After the ranger station we headed straight for the otters.  Jeff liked that they named the otter exhibit the same name as the University of Oregon football stadium.  Go DUCKS! 

The otter was sleeping when we walked in, but I accidentally hit the glass on his den with my camera and he woke up.  :(  I felt bad, but got a nice picture of him in the process.


I loved how they honored the trees and the native growing plants all around the outside of the museum.

We walked down the path and found a living history settlement based on the 1904 settlers that came in hopes of a better life.  These people stay at the museum and are period focused the entire time while on shift.  A lot of them did not lose focus on what it was like to be a settler during that time.

I loved how lavender was the focus in the cabin of the elders.  She talked about how they used what they could find to treat ailments and sickness.



The sleeping quarters for the men were very cramped.

The cold storage cabin was actually built underground and mostly of brick or rock to help keep it cool.

The outside of the cold storage.

I loved this set up for their chickens on the homestead.  

The barn where most of the livestock, such as horses and mule were kept.

The horse corral was made from weaved tree saplings and small branches.  It reminded me of a large bird's nest.

When we left the Pioneer Homestead, there was even more sculptures that were made from local artists.  This one was a sculpture made from barbwire.

Rainbow trout were swimming in almost all of the waterways throughout the outdoor exhibits.

This porcupine meowed at me.  Seriously it meowed.  

We walked on to the Birds of Prey exhibit.

Ospreys are quite common in Oregon.  We have even sat on our back porch area and watched them land in the field behind our house.  They are similar in form to an eagle and act the same way when it comes to hunting and flying.  The bald eagles were on exhibit behind the osprey enclosure....


Brown barn owl.  There was also a snowy white owl, but he was hidden too far in his perch to get a good picture of him.  This guy was sunbathing and hooted a few times.  I think his nocturnal instincts were a bit off.


An old fire truck was the last thing you saw when leaving the museum.  Jeff and Skylar swooned over it for awhile before we left.  

Of course, these photos don't give the museum full credit for what it does offer.  It's worth a trip!


Eco-Tip:  The winter season is vastly approaching us, be sure you are stocked up on the bare essentials and don't forget flashlights, candles, and a weather radio too.  Stock up on flour, sugar, and other nonperishable foods before it's too late.  While you're at it, stock your freezer with meats and other frozen foods that can help you get through the season without running short.  For this and other tips on going green visit, The Earth and Me:  Go Green!

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