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Baker City, Oregon Travel Guide
Last Updated: Jan-14-2012, Hits: 8,104, Rating: 0, Reviews: 0, Votes: 0 Bookmark and Share
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Baker City, Oregon Travel Guide Restaurants (19)
Hotels and Lodging (17)
Bars and Nightlife (10)
Attractions (13)
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Oregon Travel Forum (20)
Location: North America
Geography: High Desert
Vacation Type: Adventure
Popularity: Off-the-Beaten Path
Costs: Budget, Moderate
Attractions: Skiing, Historical Sites, Camping, Festivals

Facts and Stats:
Population: 9,828
Land Area: 6.9 square miles
Elevation: 3,451 feet
Country Dialing Code: 1
Area Code: 541
Languages: English
Electricity: 110V
Currency: US Dollar
Time Zone: Pacific (PST) UTC-8/UTC-7 (Summer)
Current Time:

Note: This travel guide also covers the communities of Sumpter (population 191), North Powder (population 474), and Haines (population 383).

Once the largest city between Portland and Salt Lake City, Baker City began as a pit stop for pioneers on the Oregon Trail in Eastern Oregon, and later became a gold mining boomtown. Today, Baker City is appreciated for its historic sites including the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

Baker City is located in Baker County, Eastern Oregon in a valley between the Wallowa Mountains to the northeast and the Elkhorn Mountains to the west. The 153 mile long Powder River flows through town on its way to the Snake River. Baker City is located along the Oregon Trail.

Brief History:
Prospectors discovered gold in eastern Oregon in 1861 and quickly sparked a rush of miners that led to the creation of Baker City. Soon a saloon, hotel, and blacksmith shop opened, followed by a quartz mill in 1864. In 1865 the town was platted, and in 1868 it succeeded Auburn (now a ghost town) as the county seat of Baker County. Baker City officially incorporated as a city in 1874. The city and county were named in honor of U.S. Senator Edward D. Baker, the only sitting senator to be killed in a military engagement.

The Oregon Short Line Railroad came to Baker City in 1884 and encouraged continued growth.

In 1888, a major fire destroyed most of the business buildings on the west side of Main Street between Valley and Court Avenues. Replacement buildings were made of brick and stone.

By the 1890s the city gained a reputation as the "Denver of Oregon." During this period, Baker City was one of the more colorful towns in the Pacific Northwest as miners, ranchers, cowboys, and sheepherders mingled with gamblers and dance hall girls. By 1900 it had become the trading center for a vast region and was the largest city between Salt Lake City and Portland.

Construction of the narrow gauge Sumpter Valley Railroad in 1896 and the Transatlantic Railway in 1897 helped the mining and timber industries flourish for decades. Access to seemingly endless supplies of timber in the nearby mountains kept area sawmills humming and provided employment for hundreds. But falling mine production and the closing of more public forests to logging caused a downturn in the area's economy.

In 1911 the city dropped "City" from its name, but restored it in the late 1980s in recognition of its history and to further encourage tourism.

In 1992, public and private leaders joined forces to establish the nearby National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center to act as the focal point for development of the tourist industry. An ambitious program of restoring dozens of historic structures in the downtown area has also paid dividends, helping to draw tourists to the city.

People & Culture:
As the gold started to dry up in the 70's, Baker City's economy migrated to cattle ranching and timber. The 1980's were a difficult period for the city which had the highest unemployment rate in the state and many businesses didn't survive. In 1986, Governor Neil Goldschmidt challenged Baker County to develop a plan to improve their economy. The county looked to tourism as the answer, and since that time a lot of effort has been put into their heritage tourism industry.

Today, the city is home to dozens of buildings listed on the National Historic Register, and the historic feel and charm have been greatly preserved here. Every year, the city has the Miner's Jubilee in July that celebrates the mining history of the area.

Food & Nightlife:
The food scene in Baker City isn't particularly exciting, not to say that there aren't good places to eat. Most places serve some form of traditional style American cuisine, and there aren't many alternative cuisines available.

As is to be expected in a small town, the night life isn't hopping, but there are a number of watering holes available including a couple of brewpubs.

Money & Costs:
Baker City is fairly inexpensive and there are a number of affordable accomodations available. There is no sales tax in Oregon, however, there is a lodging tax of about 10%.

Tipping in restaurants follows the U.S. standard of 15%-20%.

Getting There & Around:
The Baker City Airport is available for charter flights. The closest airport providing commercial flights is the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton, Oregon which offers flights to Seattle and Portland. The table below shows the distances between Baker City and other regional cities.

City Distance
Haines, OR 11 miles
Sumpter, OR 29 miles
La Grande, OR 44 miles
Ontario, OR 74 miles
John Day, OR 79 miles
Pendleton, OR 96 miles
Boise, ID 128 miles
Burns, OR 149 miles
Bend, OR 231 miles
Portland, OR 303 miles

Once in Baker City, there is local bus and taxi services available.

Located in Oregon's "high desert", Baker City's climate is comprised of very cold winters and warm summers. During the summer the temperature during the day can be hot with very cool nights providing temperature swings of nearly 40 degrees. During the winter expect below freezing temperatures and a fair amount of snow.

Below are the current conditions and weather forecast for Baker City, Oregon.

The table below shows the average high and low temperatures.

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg High 34 40 50 58 66 74 84 84 75 61 44 34
Avg Low 16 19 25 29 36 42 46 45 37 28 22 16
Precipitation 0.80" 0.60" 0.82" 0.85" 1.48" 1.18" 0.65" 0.71" 0.55" 0.63" 0.90" 0.98"

Tips & Additional Information:
  • The movie "Paint Your Wagon" with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin was filmed in Baker City.
  • Around the turn of the century, Baker City was known as "Queen City of the Inland Empire".
  • During the mining years, there was a large Chinese population in the city who worked the mines.

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