Few events are as iconic of the American experience as the pioneer journey westward. The National Oregon Trail center is an organization that is committed to educating and preserving the legacy of pioneer culture through their immersive exhibits, artifacts, and artworks. The 19th century saw one of the most significant shifts in population in American history. By some estimates, over 200,000 men, women, and children followed the Oregon/California Trail by wagon during this era.
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While with modern conveniences, people are able to complete the trail in just 4 days, the same trip took 5 months by wagon. Fueled in part by the Gold Rush and in part by the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, the journey westward was full of hardships and dangers, the likes of which many of the travelers had not seen before. Starting from the Independence Landing in Missouri, migrants would cross the Salt Lake Desert and the Sierra Nevada Mountains into California. Aided by sturdy wagons, trade from Native Americans, and a desire to succeed against all odds, 19th century pioneers achieved the ever-elusive American Dream.
Visitors seeking an immersive pioneer experience need look no further than the National Oregon Trail Center. With decorated sets and costumed docents, the trail center offers visitors an inside look at all of the challenges early pioneers would have faced when making the journey to the American West. History buffs will likely already know that this great migration took place between 1842 and 1869, however few among them will know what kind of provisions pioneers would have needed to successfully complete the journey, much less the threats and joys they would have encountered on their way. The rich history of the region and the personalized narratives of those brave men and women who pushed the American frontier are all there for visitors to discuss and discover as they participate in this interactive exhibit.
Rails and Trails Museum
Showcasing the history of Bear Lake Valley, the Rails and Trails Museum has three collections consisting of historically significant artifacts and accompanying information. Transportation is a key theme in the collection due to its role in the development of the region. The Montpelier Railroad comprises one third of the museum’s holdings. The Daughters of Utah Pioneer exhibit allows visitors to get a better understanding of the human side of the pioneer lifestyle. The artifacts brought by pioneers are a jumping off point for discussions about the daily struggles of families and individuals who tried to make their way west at a time that offered few of the luxuries that characterize the modern age. As Bear Lake Valley became settled by pioneers who established long-term homesteads, the culture of the area changed. The enduring legacy of the first settlers continues to be a point of pride for the region and is expertly displayed in the Bear Lake County and Historical Society exhibit.
Oregon Trail Paintings
In addition to the immersive pioneer experience on offer at the trail center, visitors also have the opportunity to view 44 paintings that capture the excitement, hope, and fears of 19th century pioneers. In creating these works of art, artist Gary Stone combined his experience travelling the Oregon/California Trail while reading the diaries and notations left by actual pioneers. The result is an impressive oeuvre of paintings that speak to a pivotal chapter in the American story.
Scenic Trails Chuck Wagon
Visitors who have ever wondered what it might be like to dine like a pioneer can take advantage of the Scenic Trails Chuck Wagon experience at the trail center to find out. While not technically a restaurant, the Scenic Trails Chuck Wagon facility has seating for up to 80 patrons, who must book the experience in advance. Upon arriving, visitors will be able to enjoy a chef-prepared meal of prime rib served at sunset in modified wagon booths. Each table setting has a screen that displays images of views from the famous Oregon/California Trail.
Allinger Community Theatre
A focal point for the locality of Bear Lake County, the Allinger Community Theatre is an extension of the trail center’s commitment to preserving the history and culture of the area. Visitors are welcome to enjoy a show in their state-of-the-art facility that is decorated in line with the 19th century pioneer era. Featuring both professional and rising talent, the programming is bound to entertain even the most discerning of audiences.
320 North 4th Street, P.O. Box 323, Montpelier, ID 83254, Phone: 866-847-3800