Northwest Chapter

Covering Oregon, Washington & British Columbia

Our interest is in study, research, protection, preservation, and enjoyment of the historic trails in Oregon and Washington. We have the privilege of living in the territory where overland emigrants settled and started new lives.


Many of our members are descendants or know descendants of trail pioneers although many don’t have these connections. We strive to preserve our heritage. Some of the more notable NW sites along the trails are the Columbia River, Fort Vancouver, ruts near Echo, Barlow Road, Blue Mountains, Whitman Mission, the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Oregon City, and the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center near Baker City. There is more to see on the Applegate Trail (the Southern Route to Oregon). Our chapter is deeply involved with researching, mapping, and marking the historic trails. We have semi-annual tours which are open to the public of sections of the trails. Please join us – it’s fun!

Chapter Mission

The mission of the Northwest chapter of OCTA is to support and initiate local efforts using private and governmental partners and to join with adjacent chapters in support of the national association efforts in identifying, preserving, protecting and educating the public about the Oregon Trail and California Overland Trail legacy.

On October 5, 2018, then Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued a state-wide proclamation honoring the 175th Anniversary of the Oregon Trail and marking the arrival of the Great Migration in October 1843. The year 2018 was also the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System Act (1968) and the 40th Anniversary of the Oregon National Historic Trail (1978). Now more than ever the Oregon Trail in Oregon needs protection and its legacy shared with this and future generations.

View the Proclamation

Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Across Oregon Now Available from the National Park Service

This is the latest in the series of Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guides printed over the years. If any OCTA NW Chapter member would like to have a copy (or more) please email your request, including number of copies desired, shipping address, and phone number, to, or you can call and leave Lee Kreutzer a message at 801-741-1012 ext 118.

Upcoming NW Chapter Activities

May 16 to 19, 2024 — Blue Mountains Exploration in OR led by Robin Baker. For further information contact Robin Baker at

June 22 and 23, 2024 — Cowlitz River Trip in WA led by Dave Welch. For further information contact Dave Welch at

July 21 to 25, 2024 — National OCTA Convention in Pendleton, OR. More information will come out as it is available.

September 28, 2024 — NW Chapter OCTA Fall Meeting at Borst Park in Centralia, WA. More information will be coming out as it is available.

Upcoming NW Chapter Zoom meetings

April 13, 2024 – 10:00 am Caroline Gilson, “The 1864 Travel Diary of Ernest John Heinen: Nebraska to California via the Overland Trail”

Our speaker is Caroline Gilson, a relatively new OCTA member from Indiana. Her talk will present some new perspectives on the emigrant journey in 1864.

Caroline inherited family history documents from her late mother, Arlene, in 2019 and this included a diary from 1864 of Caroline’s great-great grandfather, Joseph Ernest Johann Heinen, who wrote about his travels from Omaha, Nebraska to San Leandro, California from May to September 1864.  His destination was a working ranch, where he worked for an extended period before returning to his home in Forreston, Illinois.  Caroline began work with the diary in 2022 and found OCTA resources online.  She joined OCTA in November 2022.  In the summer of 2023, Caroline received Faculty-Student Research funding through DePauw University to have a student scan and transcribe the Heinen diary.  Next steps will include exploring a multimedia presentation of the 1864 diary content and a closer reading of the diary content to study the native American tribes mentioned, traveling on the Bridger Cutoff in June and July 1864, and notes on the Mormon buildings in Salt Lake City.

May 4, 2024 – 10:00 am To be determined

June 8, 2024 – 10:00 am To be determined

Please consider making a presentation. Topics may include trail history, trail research, family history, local history, or preservation. Contact Dave Welch ( for additional information. Each meeting will also include a short business meeting and an update on tours and explorations.

OCTA videos available on YouTube

OCTA has posted a series of trails-related videos on YouTube.

Videos range from convention presentations on trail legacy to current trail preservation issues and on-site interviews with trail historians and interpreters.


National Park Service contracted study is available online

A research study “First Year in Oregon, 1840-1869: A Narrative History” was completed in October 2021, and is available online. Historical Research Associates, Inc., of Portland, Oregon, conducted the study under contract with the National Trails office, National Park Service.

The study has an introduction, five chapters, a conclusion, illustrations, tables, and a bibliography.

From the introduction:

“After traversing the roughly 2,000mile Oregon Trail, overlanders arrived at their destination: the
fertile and rainsoaked Willamette Valley. The first year in Oregon presented challenges for new
arrivals: Where would they sleep? What would they eat? Could they count on anyone to help them?
How might they work to earn food, clothing, or money? Not all who arrived were pleased with what
they found in the Willamette Valley: decades of boosterism about Oregon had raised the
expectations of some overlanders so high that the reality was a letdown.

This narrative history describes how overlanders survived their first year in Oregon and how the
firstyear experience evolved from 1840 to 1869. While many arrived in Oregon City in the 1840s, or
in Portland in later years, they settled far and wide across the Willamette Valley, the Umpqua Valley,
the Red River Valley, Clatsop Plains, and other parts of Oregon and Washington. They often spent
their first winters in temporary accommodations with friends, relatives, or strangers willing to rent
rooms, and they only later found land where they could build houses and live more permanently.”

Enjoy reading this study!

Explore the Cowlitz Trail

Shortly after Ezra Meeker completed his ambitious 1906 expedition to preserve the Old Oregon Trail the Daughters of the American Revolution approved a proposal to honor the memory of Oregon Trail pioneers in Washington State. The Sons of the American Revolution give support to DAR’s program.

Explore the Naches Pass

The Naches Trail crosses the Cascade Range through Naches Pass, roughly from today’s Bonney Lake in the west to Yakima in the east. Later the name was applied to the route from Walla Walla to Steilacoom, as an extension of the Oregon Trail.

National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City, Oregon

Memorial Day weekend, 2022, was the 30th anniversary of the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center’s grand opening, held in May 1992.

The Hells Canyon Journal of Halfway, Oregon, printed a series of articles in October, November, and December 2021 about the center’s history.

First article features Dave and Joyce Hunsaker, who were instrumental in the planning, construction, grand opening, and operation of the interpretive center.

Second article describes Dave Hunsaker’s involvement with the planning, design, research, and installation of the center’s interpretive exhibits.

Third article describes the grass roots efforts of local Baker City resident Chuck Rouse and others to obtain funding for the interpretive center. (Second page of this article.)

Fourth article focuses on Joyce Hunsaker and “Fanny,” a fictional interpretive character at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

Fifth article features Cammy Warner and the Trail Tenders, established in 1989 in partnership with the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.


*Note: You may need to download these PDFs to rotate the view for readability.


Below is a list of OCTA Northwest members holding elected and appointed positions with the chapter. Additional information is available in the link below.

  • President:  Susan Doyle (1/24-12/25)
  • Vice President:  Wendell Baskins (1/24-12/25)
  • Secretary: Jenny Miller (1/24-12/25)
  • Treasurer: Glenn Harrison (1/24-12/25)
  • Director: Dave Welch (1/23-12/25)
  • Director: Polly Jackson (1/24-2/26)
  • Director: Sherrill Beck (2/24-12/24)

2023-2024 NW Chapter Leadership


Issues Related to the Trails in the Northwest

This section will address current issues of importance to the Northwest Chapter. Of immediate concern is the proposed transmission line from Boardman to Hemingway. This line will severely impact the Oregon Trail

NW Chapter Newsletter

Northwest Trails is the newsletter for the Northwest Chapter. It is published quarterly (January, April, July, October) in electronic and print versions.

Northwest Chapter Policies and Guidelines

This section provides by-laws, policies, guidelines, and other governing information for the chapter.

Richard & Trudy Ackerman Meritorious Achievement Award

Since 2000, the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center has honored individuals that have made significant contributions to trail history.