You can get the whole story of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman’s pioneer mission on the Oregon Trail at the Whitman Mission National Historic Site (28 Whitman Mission Road, 509/529-2761), seven miles west of Walla Walla on Highway 12. None of the original buildings remain, but you can walk self-guided trails to the mission site, grave, monument, and locations of the first house, blacksmith shop, and gristmill. Cultural demonstrations—including adobe brick making, beadwork, moccasin making, and butter churning—take place on summer weekends.
Maintained by the National Park Service, the visitors center here (8 a.m.–6 p.m. daily mid-June–Labor Day, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. daily the rest of the year, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, $3 adults, $5 for a family arriving in one car, free for kids under 16) contains a diorama of the Whitman mission, plus artifacts found here and an informative exhibit about the Cayuse tribe and the sad end to the Whitmans’ work.
The grounds are open till dusk year-round. Be sure to walk up the hill to the Whitman Memorial, a 27-foot-tall obelisk overlooking this lonely place. Come here on a late fall day with the clouds overhead, the brown grass at your feet, great blue herons on the shore of the pond, and a chilly west wind to really appreciate the peaceful wildness that both the Cayuse and the Whitmans loved. A restored section of the Oregon Trail (used until 1844) passes right through the Whitman Mission site.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition