Located on Highway 97, Shaniko Ghost Town is Oregon’s most famous ghost town. It has abandoned buildings, a museum, small businesses, historical displays along the streets, murals, and even a candy shop in the former City Hall.
While Shaniko looks and feels like a Ghost Town, with no cars or people in sight, about 30 people still live in the old town and businesses do exist — even if it doesn’t look like it. The handful of businesses are only open in the warmer months and there is no guarantee they will be open when you drive through.
Many of the old buildings are left open and accessible with no one in sight, and if you peek in, there are historical displays and exhibits. You can even visit the old jail and go in the jail cells. There is a gorgeous old hotel and saloon, and gas station, but both are closed.
While we didn’t have a lot of time to explore the Oregon Ghost Town on our way to Ellensburg, Washington and The Gorge Amphitheater, we did have a chance to walk around the Main Street, peek inside some of the buildings, and admire what remains of the former Wool Capital of the World.
The History Of Shaniko, Oregon
In 1897, The Columbia Southern Railway filed papers to run track from the Columbia River at Biggs to a place near the old stage stop of Cross Hollows.
August Scherneckau settled in Cross Hollows from 1874-1887 and became postmaster. He was well liked by the Indians, who couldn’t pronounce his German name correctly and called him Shaniko, which became the official name of the town.
The Townsite Company bought the land in 1899 and planned the thirty block town. In 1900, the first train arrived in a town with just a few buildings and tents pitched for the 170ish people living in the town. The only business that was open was a saloon in the town’s first wooden building.
With the railroad connecting Shaniko to the rest of the world, Shaniko capitalized on it’s massive amount of sheep, shipping 2,000 tons of wool in 1901. By 1903, Shaniko was the largest inland wool shipping center in the world.
Unfortunately, in 1911, another rail line was completed from the Columbia River along the Deschutes River to Bend and Shaniko was bypassed by many for easier routes. That same year, a horrible fire decimated the town and many chose not to rebuild. Then, in 1942, the railroad ceased travel to Shaniko and most of the townspeople left.
Today, while classified as a Ghost Town, Shaniko, Oregon has a population of approximately 30. On the main streets of the town, you’ll find a mic of old, abandoned buildings and nicer-looking, restored buildings. The restored buildings are what is left of a wealthy businessman’s efforts to buy much of Shaniko, including the Shaniko Hotel, and turn it into a lively, wild west tourist destination. A dispute over water rights however, ended his pursuits and the hotel and saloon remain closed to this day.
Know Before You Go
- Shaniko Ghost Town (Shaniko, Oregon 97057) is located about four hours from Eugene and 90 minutes from Bend, just off of Highway 97 in Wasco County.
- There is no fee to visit this Oregon Ghost Town and ample parking is available on the street.
- The hotel, saloon, and gas station are closed, but there is a museum, ice cream shop, post office, store, art gallery, and bookstore.
- Businesses are only open from April through September and often appear to be closed because the down is desolate, there is no visible activity, and the doors are closed.
- The Shaniko Hotel, originally known as the Columbia Southern Hotel, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.