Discover the History of Bend
The Old Mill District
In 1877, John Y. Todd bought an old ranch on the eastern banks of the Deschutes River from Tom Greer for $60 and two saddle horses. Travelers had their final view of the river at these wide bends near his ranch and named the spot “Farewell Bend.” Less then 40 years later, the ranch became the sight for one of the largest timber operations in the world, the Brooks-Scanlon lumber mill and, across the river, the Shevlin-Hixon Company.
Today, the site of these old mills has been transformed into a bustling shopping district called the Old Mill District, with the REI building as its centerpiece. This popular recreation store was once the three-chimney powerhouse that fueled the mill’s operations.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
The lava that once erupted from the still active Newberry Volcano has created 50,000 acres of stunning lakes, waterfalls, and geographical features within the Deschutes National Forest. Learn about the underground tunnels created by Newberry’s molten lava at the Lava Lands Visitor Center and then head south to the Newberry Crater where you can view the country’s largest obsidian lava flow. Drive to the top of Paulina Peak and take in views of the 18-mile-long caldera, which holds East Lake and Paulina Lake, two turquoise twins full of trout and salmon.
Historic Elk Lake Guard Station
In 1920, a wagon road was built between Bend and Elk Lake, and tourism around the scenic waterfront boomed. Elk Lake Lodge opened its doors to visitors, lots for summer homes were leased, and there was even a post-office. By 1929, this building was constructed to serve as the base for a forest guard who would help protect the resources of the National Forest and serve visitors. In 1997, the building was restored and became an official historic sight plus an information center along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. Visit the station and learn about the life and work of National Forest Service Guard in the 20th Century.
The former home of the late Governor Tom McCall’s family is under the rimrock near the Crooked River. Originally from an established east coast family, McCall’s father followed his ranching dreams west and built this house the family would come to know as “Westernwold.” McCall was raised here, graduated from Redmond High School and later went on to get his journalism degree from the University of Oregon. McCall is remembered as a fierce and fearless leader of the environmental movement of the ’60s and ’70s. He set a bold example for the rest of the country and the world with his radical land-use policies and the first bottle-deposit program in America. The legacy he left behind lives on in the continued protection of Oregon’s beauty and resources.
Guided History Tours of Bend, Oregon
If you prefer to take in your history on two-wheels, check out either Bend Electric Bikes or Let It Ride and their historical tours by electric bike.