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, 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

National Park Service contracted study now available online

A research study “First Year in Oregon, 1840-1869: A Narrative History” was completed in October 2021, and is now 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!


Planned 2022 Chapter Outings and Activities


April 16 (Saturday)


You are invited to NWOCTA’s first outing of the 2022 season. Roger Blair and Rich Herman will be conducting a tour and hike of the Boardman Bombing Range. The hike is about four miles in length on Nature Conservancy property at the western end of the Bombing Range. It is not on the active portion of the Range, but there will be a stop to view the interpretive panels at Well Spring. It is an easy, level hike of excellent ruts. However, the trail is near the road along the southern boundary of the Range and should anyone not be able to complete the full length, there will be a pickup vehicle for anyone wishing to not complete the full hike. If there is interest, we can offer an opportunity to view the Sage Center in Boardman, Oregon at the outset of the trek.

The hike and tour will be held April 16, 2022. We will meet at 10 am in Boardman and caravan from there to the ruts. If you are interested in participating, please email Roger Blair ( and/or Rich Herman ( stating your interest. You will be sent instructions regarding where/when to meet, along with a list of motels in Boardman for those who wish to overnight the night before or after and any other necessary logistic information.


This outing will be followed by:

June 4 (Saturday)

Gate Creek: east out to first Surveyors Note location, examine road depression just east of Surveyor Note location. This hike is off-trail, and mostly level, and in full sun (3 miles total).

June 18 (Saturday)

Gate Creek: west up ridge to Surveyors Note location and back via northern “road”. This hike is off-trail, and is up and down hill through shaded forest (2.5 miles total).

July 9 (Saturday)

1846 Laurel Hill: end of Kiwanis Camp Road road to bottom of post-1853 wagon road at Hwy 26. This hike is off-trail up and down hill, through shaded forest, with some blowdown and light brush (2.5 miles total).

July 23 (Saturday)

1846 Barlow Pass to Pioneer Woman’s Grave. This hike is mostly off-trail through shaded forest, with multiple blowdowns, and moderate brush (1 mile total).

Contact Robin Baker at if you are interested in participating in any of these hikes. More information will be provided upon receipt of your email. 

OCTA Covid-19 protocols will be observed. You will need to provide proof of vaccination and sign the OCTA Liability Waiver.



May 10-13: We will be exploring near the Emigrant Springs State Heritage Area for traces of the Oregon Trail. This will be a multi-day effort involving some bushwhacking and navigation skills, probably no more than 5 miles per day. We may also need a shuttle driver, someone to drop people off at one location and pick them up at another. This will require a multi-person vehicle (high-clearance preferred) and the ability to read maps of the area to find your way on gravel and dirt roads.

June (date TBD): We will be exploring the Barlow Cutoff Road. We hope to visit the Catherine Bonner Butts gravesite. This exploration will be primarily be done from our cars, with limited hiking.

July 17 (Sunday): We will be exploring the 1846 wagon ruts from Barlow Pass to Pioneer Woman’s Grave to prepare for the scheduled hike on Saturday, July 23rd. This will involve moderate brush and blowdown on steep slopes.

August (dates TBD, dependent upon fire conditions and access restrictions): We would like to explore the Immigrant Springs area along the Barlow Road FS3530 west of Gate Creek. We would also like to explore west of Charity Spring below the FS3530 road down to White River, looking for traces of the 1846 road.

Contact Robin Baker at if you are interested in participating in any of these exporations. More information will be provided upon receipt of your email.

OCTA Covid-19 protocols will be observed. You will need to provide proof of vaccination and sign the OCTA Liability Waiver.


2021 Chapter Outings and Activities


Saturday, OCTOBER 9, 2021, 10 AM T0 4 PM 

Borst Park in Centralia, Washington

“Hi! How are you?” OCTA NW Chapter members greeted each other during their first in-person gathering in over two years. Chapter president Sallie Riehl presided over a social gathering and a board meeting on Saturday October 6 at Borst Park in Centralia, Washington. Other members attended by Zoom, and all enjoyed a presentation by Christopher Chapman, who recounted his recent bicycle trek along the Oregon Trail with humor and joy. Everyone hopes for more safe, in-person meetings and trail activities in the coming year.


Eagle Scout Project, July 29-30, 2021

Boy Scout Troop 654 of Hermiston, Oregon, was instrumental in placing more T-Rails on the Oregon Trail in eastern Oregon on July 29-30, 2021.

Learn more about this project, accomplished under the leadership of Eagle Scout Andrew Goller with the assistance of NW Chapter OCTA members.


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

Next Memorial Day weekend, 2022, will be 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:  Sallie Riehl (1/22-12/23)
  • Vice President:  Vacant
  • Secretary: Jenny Miller (1/22-12/23)
  • Treasurer: Glenn Harrison (1/22-12/23)
  • Director: Dave Welch (1/20-12/22)
  • Director: Polly Jackson (1/21-2/23)
  • Director: John “Andy” Anderson (1/22-12/24)


2021 Chapter Leadership and Contact Info



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.