American Solar Challenge: Bend, Oregon

Travelers on the Oregon Trail would continue on until they reached the Willamette River, but for the solar cars, their race comes to an end at Bend, Oregon on July 22. Check the American Solar Challenge 2018 page for event details. Follow the race and related events on Facebook with: American Solar Challenge and Oregon National Historic Trail.

Bend, Oregon: The Free Emigrant Road

In 1853, established settlers opened a new trail to attract emigrants into the south end of the Willamette Valley. Because this would be a cost-free alternative to the Barlow Road, which charged a toll for passage to the valley, they called it the Free Emigrant Road. This trail branches off the old Oregon Trail at today’s town of Vale and follows the meandering 1845 Meek Cutoff most or all the way (opinions differ) to the Deschutes River, where it turns south at Bend and eventually makes its way through the Cascade Mountains to Eugene. The first wagon train to try the poorly marked route that year got lost, ran out of food, and had to be rescued. The last of the original 200 wagons rolled into the Willamette Valley in November.

  • High Desert Museum (59800 US-97, Bend, OR) This kid-friendly museum showcases the natural and cultural history of Eastern Oregon. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission charged. To reach the museum, drive south of Bend on US-97 for 6.5 miles. A brown highway side indicates the left turn to the museum entrance.
  • Lava Butte at Newberry National Volcanic Monument (Deschutes National Forest, south of Bend, OR) The Free emigrant Road passed east of Lava Butte, which today is part of Newberry National Volcanic Monument. A road takes you to the summit to view the caldera and overlook the expanses of forests and lakes through which the lost emigrants had to find their way. Open Thurs.-Mon. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. $5/vehicle recreation fee. Follow US-97 south out of Bend for 11 miles. A brown directional sign indicates the right turn to the visitor center.

Last updated: July 2, 2018

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Oregon National Historic Trail
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