BEND, Ore.— The High Desert Museum just outside Bend offers families a glimpse at how some of Oregon's first settlers lived and lets them see wild animals up close.
“Have any of you ever hear the phrase, 'flash in the pan?'” An interpreter asks while showing off an old black powder rifle. “We get that phrase from flintlock muskets just like this.”
Families and kids are all ears, as interpreters show them a piece of frontier life in Oregon. But the smoking gun is just one attraction on this path. There are 135 acres for families to learn and explore.
“There's always the favorites. They love the otters,” Kristi Giles said. Giles is touring the museum with her grandkids. “The exhibits change, so that's the best part. They're always learning new things.”
“They all have scent glands. And they'll go and mark their territory,” one museum staff member said while feeding the museum’s otter named “Rogue”. And he doesn't mind showing off. Kids at the museum are invited to get up close and personal with many of the animals that you'd find in Oregon's wilderness.
“They hunt a lot. And it's just cool that they can survive in the cold,” grade schooler Rev Giles said while describing the museum’s lynx. “They don't get that cold very much.”
“We want you to experience it, not just read about it,” Linda Evans said. Evans plays “Mrs. Miller”, a historically accurate ranch wife living in Oregon in the 1800s.
“A lot of people will pull in and they'll think, 'oh, it's open for another hour and a half. Let's stop and see what it's all about.' And then they realize an hour and a half really isn't enough time to see the High Desert Museum,” public relations manager John Furgurson said.
Besides the exhibits and live animals, the High Desert Museum also features a working ranch. In the summer months, they showcase a working sawmill and a blacksmith, showing families what life was like for some of Oregon's early settlers.
“Husbands were away quite a bit. In fact, you had five years to prove up on a homestead. And that means building a house and prove you can make a living,” Evans said. “That's the story of the High Desert. That's a tough job. “
“This breed of chicken was specifically imported to this area in the early 1900s because they're very hardy,” Furgurson said.
Authenticity is a big deal for the staff at the museum. And from the birds of prey to a family that plays, you can see it all in a day's drive.
On Saturday, February 8, the museum is hosting a fashion show called Firearms and Fashion. Historical characters will be showing off outfits and guns they would've carried in the late 1800s. The show begins at 6 p.m.
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