High Desert Museum

Written by www.casago.com’s Local Expert


High Desert Museum is a wonderful location to visit when you are exploring all that Sunriver has to offer. It is truly an interesting place to spend time as it provides information on the natural world as well as some of the cultural aspects of this region. There are a lot of hands-on displays and programs. I loved the art that is found throughout it.

The museum has been in place since 1982. It has over 135 acres of space and 100,000 square feet of exhibits (and you will not be bored going through any of it!). The museum provides a good understanding of the native wildlife in the area, like the badgers and river otters you may see while exploring the region. It also gives a bit of information about the Oregon homesteaders who founded this area in 1904.

This is not your boring museum, though. Rather, you get to get up close with some animals, including hawks, owls, and falcons. I would recommend bringing the kids to check out all of the programs and hands-on displays. There's a bit of science and history in each one. I loved the experience here.

Also, I found that we could really spend a good amount of time here. We took a break at the Rimrock Café that is located on the grounds. It's simple snacks and sandwiches, but our group found something for us.

Of course, we could not leave without stopping at the trader's post. It's a fun little shop, and there are so many educational elements here. It's easy to find a few pieces of artisan jewelry, rock items, and art to take home. The kids loved the educational toys (and they played with them as well).

Getting There & Parking

The High Desert Museum is pretty easy to get to. If you are in Bend, you can get on Highway 97 South. It's located at 59800 US 97. It's really only about 5 to 10 minutes from Bend itself.

Admission Cost

There is a fee to pay to get into the museum. These rates can change. They also recommend purchasing them in advance of your visit because there is a limited amount of space available. The rates when we went were $20 for most people with seniors, and those with a college student ID charged $17 for the experience. Those who are 3 to 12 are $12, and those younger than that are free. Keep in mind costs are higher during the summer months. Also, I noticed that Active Duty U.S. Military and their families can visit free of charge.


One of the best exhibits here is the 1904 High Desert Ranch and Sawmill. This is a great exhibition that provides a lot of hands-on information. What I enjoyed is that you can actually talk to each of the characters that are a part of this experience. You can ask them questions as they play their roles as historical characters from the early 1900s. Ask them questions – they have a lot of information to share with you.

That's just one example, there are many others. There are exhibits on the Plateau Indians that are very informative and well done. You can walk through the museum and check out the history, culture, and so much more of this region.

They do have exhibits that change often. Most of them run for a few months or weeks before being switched out. That's great for those who come in often.


There is a lot of wildlife that is presented here, and you can really get right up close to them and their exhibits. We saw a lot of reptiles, porcupines, river otters, and raptors here. When you visit, you may even get to see them swooping in overhead. It's incredible just how up close you can get with these. I highly recommend the Raptors of the Desert Sky. It is an experience available during the summer months. When it is going on, the raptors are out and flying around the region.

There are several other displays here with animals, including the Desertarium, which is a very cool experience that I have not seen anywhere else. Also, check out the Autzen Otter Exhibit for a whole lot of loveable fun that is hard not to smile at, especially as the kids start looking for the little guys.

Virtual Experiences

If you cannot come in to see the museum in person, there is a virtual tour available. This is a good way to check out some of the location's features and exhibits. It's not easy to read everything, but you can certainly check out all of the displays and really have some fun. I recommend giving this a look but still coming into the museum to check it out.


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