exhibiting-the-westHow fascinating, yet chilling to have a golden eagle watch you from just a few feet away.

It’s an experience found in few places, but it happens daily at the High Desert Museum near Bend, Oregon.

This 135-acre campus, in the Deschutes National Forest, is a living, participation-oriented museum that explores the cultural and natural history of an eight-state intermountain region known as the High Desert. (If you’re counting, it’s a history that spans 10,000 years.)

Almost 53,000 square feet of exhibits are in the main building, plus the museum has a half-mile trail that leads to another 32,000 square feet of displays and animal habitats. The land was a gift from the Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company.

Since the museum opened in 1982, it has become one of the nation’s first natural history museums with a mission to inform and educate the public about the High Desert in order to promote “thoughtful decision-making that will sustain the region’s natural and cultural heritage.”

Daily interpretive talks open up the world of river otters, porcupines, birds of prey, Native Americans and pioneers. Visitors can also get “up close and personal” with live raptors in the Donald M. Kerr Birds of Prey Center.

The museum offers even more: a new Interpretive Fire Trail where visitors learn about the region’s fire history and modern wildfire management, a settlers’ cabin that shows what life was like in the 1800s and By Hand Through Memory—an inaugural exhibit in the Henry J. Casey Hall of Plateau Indians, where visitors can learn the seldom-told story of resilience, spiritual strength and cultural preservation of Native peoples.

The museum is open every day, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. There is a small admission fee and memberships—$35 for single or $50 for families—are encouraged, since the museum is financed through private contributions and fees.


Jana Bommersbach

For more information, go to the museum’s website at www.highdesertmuseum.org or call 541-382-4754.

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