The Bureau of Land Management’s National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center is connecting kids to public lands and America’s natural and cultural heritage with a new, experiential exhibit opening Memorial Day weekend.

Saturday and Sunday, May 26-27, the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center will unveil “Heading West,” an experiential exhibit allowing visitors to participate in games, conversations, and scenarios that recreate the sights, sounds, and dilemmas of early day Oregon Trail pioneers.

The exhibit marks the 175th anniversary of the start of great migration to Oregon, when pioneers gathered in the “jumping off” town of Independence, MO, in the spring of 1843.  Nervous, excited, sad and hopeful, they were ready to venture forward on a five-month journey through little-known lands, heading west.

From 10AM to 2PM each day, interpreters, many authentically costumed, will recreate situations encountered by those emigrants preparing for their journey, getting supplies together, forming wagon trains, debating what to take and what to leave behind. Kids of all ages can sample typical foods or learn how to pack a wagon.

Decisions included putting together their “outfit” (wagon and camping gear) and choosing between oxen or mules. Figuring out how much food to pack, and how to preserve it for the long journey. Medicines, clothes, camping gear, tools… all were choices colored by “expert” advice, personal preferences, religious differences, age and gender roles.

Other considerations included hiring a guide or purchasing a guidebook; traveling on Sunday or keep the day of rest; and what to do when encountering Native Americans in the “Indian Country” they would be crossing.

For those who prefer to be less hands-on, there will be ample opportunities to watch and learn from a distance, or to view programs in the theater about gearing up for the journey of a lifetime across an unknown frontier.

The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon has over 500 acres of Oregon Trail landscape, with actual ruts from the historic wagon trains, and hiking trails winding through the site.  Indoor exhibits and an outdoor reproduction wagon encampment tell the story.

Operated by the Bureau of Land Management, it is located east of Baker City. Take Exit 302 from Interstate 84 onto Oregon Highway 86 and proceed about 5 miles. NHOTIC is open from 9AM to 6PM daily. Admission for adults is $8.00; seniors $4.50; and children 15 and under are free. Federal passes are accepted.

Visit oregontrail.blm.gov for more information about NHOTIC or call 541-523-1843 for an update on programs or events. For information on other events in Baker County, Ore., please call the Baker County Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-523-1235.