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.
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.
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 2,000–mile Oregon Trail, overlanders arrived at their destination: the
fertile and rain–soaked 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
first–year 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!
Future Northwest Chapter Zoom Meetings 2023
Zoom meeting – June 10, 1:00 p.m. PDT
Much has happened along the Cowlitz Trail from Fort Vancouver to Tumwater since Chuck Hornbuckle’s work in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Dave Welch and others will present a summary of new findings and plans for a future auto tour along the route.
Please consider making a presentation. Topics may include trail history, trail research, family history, local history, preservation, or anything related to these subjects. Contact Dave Welch (firstname.lastname@example.org) for additional information. Each meeting will also include a short business meeting and an update on tours and explorations.
June 16-17 – The Meeker Mansion Museum in Puyallup, Washington, is inviting all known Meeker descendants back to Ezra and Eliza Jane Meeker’s iconic Victorian home for a family reunion during the annual Meeker Days celebration. The two-day event is open to the general public. Learn more about planned programs and activities.
As part of this event, NW Chapter member Dennis Larsen has created a self-guiding tour of the Naches Trail through the urban areas of Piece County, Washington. It is self-guiding as parking is tight at some of the stops, with room for just one or two vehicles.
Jedediah Smith Society Rendezvous April 2-5, 2023
Rendezvous 2023 participants traveled from Crescent City, California to Oregon City, Oregon and visited several places where Smith stayed on his way north in 1828, including Fort Vancouver, Washington.
Here are documents from the Rendezvous 2023, including an itinerary, photos, maps, handouts, and guidebooks for the route.
2021 Chapter Activity
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.
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.
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.
Explore the Barlow Road
The Barlow Road is a historic road in Oregon, built in 1846 by Sam Barlow and Philip Foster. It was the last overland section of the Oregon Trail, allowing emigrants with their animals and covered wagons to cross the Cascade Range and descend into the Willamette Valley.
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: Sallie Riehl (1/22-12/23)
- Vice President (acting): Wendell Baskins
- 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)
2022-2023 NW Chapter Leadership