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It’s dry over here, and the ranchlands, deserts and canyons of Eastern Oregon are so different from the wet, green Cascades that it feels at times like a different state altogether. This region is also incredibly beautiful in its own way, and chock full of interesting history. Though Eastern Oregon is not a good destination for a quick weekend getaway from Seattle or Portland, it’s well worth the trip if you allow more time.
Why make the trip? Try horseback riding in the Eagle Cap Wilderness in Oregon’s gorgeous Wallowa Mountains. Cool off on a whitewater rafting trip through Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Experience one of the nation’s biggest rodeos at the Pendleton Round-Up. Steep yourself in local history at the Wallowa County Museum in the charming western town of Joseph or at the Kam Wah Chung Museum in John Day.
Southeast Oregon is a land of high desert and smells pungently of sage, but don’t be fooled. There’s more to this area than cattle and cowboys. There are birds! The land over here is vast and open and liberating. Look up to that immense sky, blue in the day and black at night sky with more stars than you’ll have time to count.
In the middle of all this high desert is an oasis of sorts. The lakes and marshlands of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge south of Burns provide some of the most incredible birdwatching in the Northwest during spring and fall migrations. It’s perhaps our favorite place for birdwatching in the whole Pacific Northwest.