Pendleton sits astride the Umatilla River, a tributary of the Columbia in eastern Oregon. The town was established as a trading post back in 1851 and then grew as an agricultural market town, and continued to thrive as the railroad came to town. Today the name is synonymous with the company whose mills have produced woolen blankets here since the 1860s.
What We Love
The Pendleton Round-Up: The city has hosted this annual rodeo since 1910, and has a year-round museum that traces its history and celebrates past winners. The rodeo still draws a huge crowd every September, tripling the town's population.
Pendleton Undergound: This company hosts popular tours of the city that tell tales of what went on below street level in the maze of passages and rooms used for illegal activities such as gambling and prostitution.
Best Known For
Pendleton Woolen Mills: You can book an excursion to this historic mill, open for tours to see how the famous blankets and colorful shirts are made. An attached store sells the finished woolens that are a de rigueur souvenir.
The Tamástslikt Cultural Institute: This center hosts traditional performances plus exhibits on the history as well as the present-day conditions of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla tribes, including the impact of the white pioneers. A casino is also attached.
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Who It's Best For
Wild West History Buffs: You can clearly trace the city's evolution here, and see industries that have been thriving since the great move west. Many buildings in town, from humble shops to elaborate homes, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
A Visit Starts with a Bus Ride: River ships actually dock at the port of Umatilla, which is a 40-mile bus ride from Pendleton's attractions.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.