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Day & Night at the Museum


I recently had the good pleasure to write a feature story for the national magazine, Cowboys & Indians, about Bend’s High Desert Museum.  It was a great opportunity to shout out all the great work the museum does. Here are some of my favorite things about the museum, and you don’t have to buy a magazine to read about them!

Living History: One of the most engaging aspects of the High Desert Museum is the living history “exhibit.” Authentically inspired characters from the old west stroll the museum and talk with visitors, citing the challenges of prairie life, for example, or boasting the stagecoach ride of Horace Greeley. Their stories, accents and costumes follow history, right down to the buttons on their underwear.

Wildlife Exhibits: Visitors to Bend’s High Desert Museum have the chance to meet wild animals every day, including Ochoco the bobcat, McKenzie the great horned owl, and Thomas the river otter, who plays in a habitat that includes underwater viewing. There are many more wildlife exhibits, including the Donald M. Kerr Birds of Prey Center and the Desertarium, where visitors can see are kinds of creepy, crawly, fascinating things.

All of the animals at the High Desert Museum have been rescued due to injuries or human imprinting. They cannot survive on their own, so the Museum provides them a safe home and visitors can see them close-up. On a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum one day, I got to witness the wild animals’ “kitchen,” and watch culinary operations of the museum. Frozen mice, birds and other natural food is shipped regularly to the museum. It was sort of gross, but also fascinating. It taught me how much attention these amazing animas require – day and night, 365 days a year. If you want to “adopt” a wild animal at the High Desert Museum, and help provide its care and feeding, the museum offers an Animal Adoption Program.

Permanent Exhibits
Through detailed experiential dioramas in Spirit of the West, visitors can witness how fur traders lived, the tribulations of traveling the Oregon Trail, and how a buckaroo spent his time.
By Hand Through Memory gives visitors a look into Plateau Native American life in the Reservation Era, showing how Plateau tribes have retained their identities by continuing traditions while actively participating in the rapid changes of a century.

Sin in the Sagebrush: Closes September 26!
Experience life in frontier saloons, gambling halls, and bordellos of the Old West. Sin in the Sagebrush is one of the most in-depth exhibits examining the lives of those who sought opportunity, fortune and community on the Western frontier. Understand how trappers, tracklayers, buckaroos, sheepherders and other workers’ dreams were replaced with lonely, harsh lives, and how they found community and escape in saloons, gambling halls and bordellos.

Rimrock Café
The Museum’s family-friendly cafe has indoor and outdoor patio seating, and offers a wide selection of dining choices – including sandwiches, grilled Oregon beef hamburgers and hot dogs, wraps, salads, chili, soups, pizza and a variety of beverages.

Silver Sage Trading Store
Everybody loves souvenirs. If you’re looking for art, books, jewelry, toys, cards, ornaments, home decor and apparel that speak to your love of the high desert, Silver Sage Trading is where you can find it all in one place.

Upcoming Event: August 21
21st Annual High Desert Rendezvous Gala and Auction
The best of the West awaits you. Don your Western gear for dinner, a hosted bar, live music, dancing and a live and silent auction to benefit the Museum’s educational programs.

The High Desert Museum is a bright shining star on the Central Oregon horizon. We locals are very proud of it and, really, could 150,000 visitors a year be wrong? The Museum is open 365 days a year except Thanksgiving,  Christmas and New Year’s Day. Link here for hours of operation, membership and admission fees.

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