This is the Most Abandoned Town of Oregon You Will Fear of
With their abandoned buildings and rusty cars, ghost towns give visitors a unique chance to go back in time. Shaniko, which used to be called Cross Hollows, is an old-looking town in eastern Oregon’s Wasco County that was once the Wool Capital of the World. It was an important railroad town until 1966, when it was cut off. It was almost empty by 1982, and only a few people still live there today.
Shaniko’s wooden sidewalks, empty buildings, and rusting cars make it a great place to explore with a camera. It’s also close to the famous Columbia River Gorge. Find out what to see and when to go on a trip to Shaniko that you will never forget.
Shaniko: What to See
Most of the interesting buildings are on Shaniko Row, which is made up of two streets that meet at the huge Italianate Shaniko Hotel (also called the Columbia Southern Hotel). It’s one of the most important buildings in the Shaniko Historic District. Throughout the town’s past, it has been a bank, a dance hall, and a saloon. It is being fixed up as of 2022. An ice cream shop and a post office are across the street, but don’t count on them being open. Next to the hotel is Dead Format Music, which plays music on 99.9 FM and sells records and guitar strings.
The Shaniko Sage Museum is across the street. It’s a small wooden house that people are free to explore on their own. It has old maps, pictures, and information about Shaniko’s famous houses. Over the old VHS tapes, faded magazines, and an old sign that says “population 26” hangs the musty smell of time stopping. But the best thing is outside, where you can see a broken-down piano with its insides showing.
Along Main Street, there is a general shop that sells basic items and has a backroom full of old signs, WWII posters, vases, coffee pots, and books. Along the way, you will see a jail, rusting machinery, and an old station wagon. There is also a classroom and a small church. Others are in ruins, while others have been carefully fixed up.
Visit Guidance in Shaniko
You can visit Shaniko whenever you want, and there are no fees or parking limits. However, the museum and Shaniko Hotel will be easiest to get to from April to September. Before the pandemic, there was a small event in early August called Shaniko Days. It had a parade, a performance of “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral,” and other fun things to do. To get the best pictures in Shaniko, go there during the “golden hour,” which is the time of soft light right before or after sunrise or sunset.
It takes less than three hours to get from Portland to Shaniko. It’s easily reached on U.S. Route 97, which is part of the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway. It’s about halfway between Bend, which is known for its outdoor activities, and Biggs Junction, which is on the Columbia River and separates Oregon and Washington.
You can get to Shaniko in two great ways. The first time is when you visit the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. The second route takes you on a scenic loop from Bend or Madras in central Oregon. It starts in Shaniko and goes south and east through Antelope, Fossil, and on unpaved roads to the John Day River Bridge. From there, you can see the stunning multicolored layers of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument — Painted Hills Unit.
How to Stay Safe at Shaniko?
There are a lot of houses in Shaniko that have seen better days, even though some have been fixed up. The museum is one of the houses that you can walk into, but the floors and walls are rough. In Shaniko, you can look around in some empty houses, but you can’t get into others because they belong to private people.
You can’t help but notice something else when you walk around town: rattlesnake warning signs. But the Northern Pacific rattlesnake in Oregon isn’t very big, so even though there are warnings, it’s not likely that you’ll see one. They’re busiest in the early morning and after dark.