Flickr album link: Farewell Bend State Recreation Area
Farewell Bend is a unique scenic area where plenty of old west pioneer history was made along the infamous Oregon Trail. This state recreation area is located on the Snake River about 25 miles west of Ontario, Oregon, which also features a riverside park of its own. In fact, most of the Snake River parks in this mountainous high desert region are prominent Oregon Trail points of interest where retracing the footprints of the past is easy to do. In modern times, most of this region is a vast irrigated agricultural area, but back in the old days the pioneers found a sigh of relief in the flat, lush riverbed valleys after the very lengthy wagon trail journey. Traditional pioneer river crossings abound in this region and it may be difficult for visitors to imagine just how dangerous the rope tethered ferries were back in the old wild west. Farewell Bend was the last place along the Snake River to rest up and gather materials needed for the next section of the Oregon Trail through the challenging mountains to the Burnt River, which was no easy task. Snake River rafters heading toward the Columbia River did not have it easy either, because the Hells Canyon section begins just north of this spot.
To put things in a pioneering perspective, Farewell Bend has always been a place to rest and relax before heading further down the trail, but there still was an element of danger. The Utter-Van Ornum Massacre Site is located just a short distance north of Farewell Bend and this incident definitely shows that the pioneers were not exactly welcome in the native territories. Gold fever and cutthroat Civil War deserters in the 1860s also added even more layers of danger, so bearing arms was a matter of survival in these parts. For this reason, Farewell Bend was known to be a place where saying goodbye likely could have been the last words spoken by an unfortunate Oregon Trail emigrant.
In modern times, Farewell Bend certainly still is a picturesque place for rest and relaxation. This section of the Snake River was dammed to create a lengthy narrow reservoir, so the water now moves calmly downstream. Grassy sagebrush foothills and forested mountain peaks surround the river basin, which beckon to be explored. There are Snake River foot paths and old traditional horseback trails throughout the hills, but most of the action can be found along the river banks because the angling is world class. The Farewell Bend Recreation Area features day use picnic areas with chargrills and basic facilities, a launch ramp and fish cleaning station. Visitors can experience a pioneer style overnighter in the spacious campground, which offers full RV hookups through the summer season. This park has a volleyball court, horseshoe pits and there is even a fenced pet walking area. All sorts of antique Oregon Trail memorabilia and historic information placards are displayed onsite, so a foot tour will truly be an educational experience for visitors of all ages. This is a great destination for kayaking and fishing for a gourmet campfire meal, so be sure to chalk Farewell Bend high on the summer season adventure list!
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