The High Desert Museum

Family fun, living history, and the cutest animals ever await at The High Desert Museum. I have loved this place since my family moved to Central Oregon in 1992. I have enjoyed every visit since I was 6 and now bring my own child to learn about this enchanting place we call home.

A burrowing owl gives us quite a look! Hoot!

The High Desert Museum is nestled in a pine forest and features exhibits both indoors and out. Visitors walk into a beautiful entry that branches off into three pathways of exploration. A baby porcupine greets visitors as he munches his lunch, a playful fox is just past him across from the rotating exhibit- a dark array of fish X-rays. To the right is a corridor of living history, a walk through time from Central Oregon’s earliest inhabitants, Oregon Trail pioneers, Gold Miners, Fur Trappers, and ends in a bustling Western Town- home on the range!

A black widow, something I’ve encountered twice in the desert.

The desertarium is home to The High Desert’s native creatures- see turtles, lizards, snakes, burrowing owls, and spiders living beside world class paintings made by local artists.

Bald eagle

A short walk through an aspen grove, along a bubbling stream will bring you to the Birds of Prey exhibit where eagles, owls, and falcons look on majestically. Most of the animals who call the museum home have been rescued after an injury and would not otherwise survive in the wild.

The museum does a wonderful job refreshing their two rotating exhibits with interactive and engaging exhibits. Some of my favorites have been a butterfly garden, Vintage Oregon homes, Smokey The Bear fire prevention, and the latest art installation: Rethinking Fire. Artist Brian David Griffith uses smoke to paint thought provoking questions about Oregon’s future in wildfire season.

By Hand Through Memory is my favorite exhibit- an emotional journey through time detailing the lives of Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Yakama, Spokane and Colville people. The exhibit is a beautifully designed tribute to the lives of Oregon’s indigenous people’s- a must see.

Outdoor at the museum you will find a real working sawmill, replications of life on the high desert including a log cabin, barns, chickens, and more. If you look far enough into the pines you will see an old rail road camp and logging equipment from Oregon’s early history.

I can’t forget to mention the otters who are always a delight (even when they are curled up in their burrow sound asleep). The museum offers a yummy cafe and an amazing gift shoppe full of locally made goodies and a selection of books that I drool over every time. I also love that The High Desert Museum offers kennels for your dog to stay cool in while you visit.

I would recommend a day at the museum to anyone traveling through Central Oregon. If you are a local, I recommend it even more as you will find out things you never knew-you never knew about the history of this place we call home.

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