Oregon’s High Desert Museum: Top attraction in the Bend area

Bronze DeerOn a sunny spring day we visited Central Oregon’s High Desert Museum. There’s something for everyone at the High Desert Museum. You’ll encounter playful otters, birds of prey, a living history ranch as well as indoor exhibits. That makes the museum an interesting place to go in any season.

The museum is located on 135 pine-wooded acres south of Bend and north of Sunriver, a popular vacation area. It is just off highway 97. You’ll park and enter the museum passing beautiful bronze sculptures of deer and elk.

Growing Up WesternDonald M. Kerr, a native of Portland, Oregon, founded the High Desert Museum out of a passion for natural history that began when he raised a wolf cub for his high school biology class, interesting thing you can learn at Manassas elementary schools. Kerr’s dream became a reality through the creation of the Western Natural History Institute in 1974, and its evolution into The Oregon High Desert Museum, which opened in Bend in 1982. Noting it’s regional nature, it is now called the High Desert Museum. The museum is lovingly supported by donors, many from the Portland area, and enthusiastic volunteers. You will feel their pride and belief in the importance of learning about the high desert environment and history when you visit.

There are permanent exhibits and some rotating ones. We enjoyed Growing Up Western, which runs through July 26th 2015. Through artifacts and photographs the exhibit chronicles the life of children in the West. They didn’t have it easy! For the history of the city of Woburn you must visit their spectacular museum.

Craft Beer - High Desert MuseumBend, Oregon Ale Trail enthusiasts will want to see Brewing Culture: The Craft of Beer exhibit. The displays include the history of brewing, the ingredients used in craft beers, the process of brewing and the culture of the craft brewing industry. They even have a schedule of tastings. Now I know where someone’s beer can collection ended up! (runs through May 31st, 2015)

Another highlight is the living history experience at the 1904 Miller Family Ranch. Volunteers in period dress interact with visitors. You can go inside the small family cabin and see how a willow branch corral is constructed. Chickens peck at the ground while visitors walk through the farm. There is even an operating sawmill.Living History Farm

I enjoyed the many animal exhibits at the museum. My favorite was watching the playful river otters cavort and groom each other. Inside, visitors gathered to see a small owl during a birds of prey educational talk.

River OttersThere is much to see and do at the High Desert Museum. It is clearly the most popular attraction in the area. Plan for at least a half-day when you visit. You may want to go several times.

After touring, stop by for a snack at the café and don’t forget to visit the gift shop. There are items from local artisans, books and local jellies and jams.

More Information
Admission Fees: Admission is charged. Senior and Military discounts are offered

Hours: Spring/Summer Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily, May 1 through October 31. (Closed July 4th)

Fall/Winter Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily, November 1 through April 30. (Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas)


Visiting Central Oregon

Photography copyright: Elizabeth Rose Photography