Oregon City—Then & Now

Discover the Trail’s terminus from its pioneer past to pub-loving present

Written by Corinne Whiting

In 2018, the Oregon Trail celebrates its 175th anniversary. Traders laid the 2,170-plus-mile wagon route from about 1811 to 1840. Between the boom years of 1840 and 1860, more than 400,000-plus pioneers traveled its path. Connecting the Missouri River to Oregon’s lush valleys, the east-west trail was only passable on foot or by horseback, and those who braved it faced challenges like wagon accidents, disease outbreaks and rushing river crossings.

The last leg of that legendary trail, the Barlow Road, happens to run through Mt. Hood Territory, the region’s proud claim to fame. As the official end of the Oregon Trail, Oregon City proves a treasure trove of pioneer history that excitingly evolves with the times, too. Overlooking the mighty Willamette Falls, Oregon City enjoys an enticing natural setting plus a charming Main Street that boasts highlights from boutique shops to trendy eateries.

Annie Austin, PR Manager for Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory, summed up her love for the destination.“Oregon City does a great job bringing heritage into the ‘experiential’ realm. Want to taste beer from around the time Portland was named? You can visit Coin Toss Brewing and try the 1845 Lager, part of their Heritage Beer Series. Maybe you want to earn your beer. You can take a guided flat-water paddle trip with eNRG Kayaking to Willamette Falls, the second largest waterfall by volume in the U.S., and learn about the history of the area and even see Native American petroglyphs along the way.”

Traveling Back in Time

Before dipping into the town’s modern-day draws, dig into rich regional history at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center where you’ll find guided walks, pioneers’ crafts and games, the Master Gardeners’ Heritage Gardens, the Henderson Farm Exhibit and genealogy research resources.

“Even the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center has embraced incorporating old and new in an interactive way. iPad displays and candle and butter-making stations all commingle,” says Austin.

Then get spooked on one of several NW Ghost Tours including “the real OC paranormal tour” which combines paranormal tales with film sites. Guests visit some of the McLoughlin neighborhood’s most haunted film locations from shows and movies including “Grimm,” “The Librarians,” “The Sasquatch Gang,” “Route 66” and “Homer and Eddie.”

Trails + Ales

Calling all outdoors enthusiasts…get out on stunning forested trail rides with Dream Ridge Stables, or kayak and SUP to Willamette Falls with enrg Kayaking. Mix exercise with fun by touring Oregon City wineries with The Bike Concierge on their Oregon City Wine Tour.

Just across from the Interpretive Center, find First City Central at the Amtrak Train Depot. The bicycle-themed eatery proves a welcoming hub for cyclists ready to load their bikes aboard trains that travel as far north as Vancouver, BC and as far south as Eugene. The bistro features craft brews, gourmet coffees, fresh local food, brewers’ dinners and live music.

Eats + Drinks

Load up on local bounty at the Oregon City Farmers Market which operates year-round. Longtime favorite restaurants include Mi Famiglia wood-fired pizza and Tony’s Fish Market a fifth-generation fish shop and seafood restaurant, while newer gems range from Weinhard Grill and Mesa Fresca Latin and American kitchen to Ingrid’s Scandinavian Food and Second Son which share a space directly across from Arch Bridge Taphouse.

Oregon City United Brewers, which opened in December, is an incubator space allowing aspiring brewers to build their business. The brainchild of Mark Maher and Brandon Neldner, OC United has been joined by Batch One Brewery which produces specialty meads and ciders. At Oregon City Brewing, another beer lovers’ must-try, enjoy delectable sausages from the minds behind Olympia Provisions. Some popular wineries include Christopher Bridge Wines, King’s Raven Winery, Forest Edge Vineyard and Villa Catalana Cellars, where the tasting room can be found in a conservatory filled with rare plants.

“The energy in Oregon City is tangible and exciting,” says Austin. We agree.

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