Located in the middle of the "Oregon Outback" next to Fort Rock State Natural Area, the Fort Rock Homestead Museum is a unique collection of over 10 historic structures gathered from around the Fork Rock and Christmas Valley ranching/farming area that date back to 1909. According to the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society:
The Homestead Act of 1862 inspired thousands to seek land in the West. The law allowed heads of households, widows, and all single people over 21 years old to purchase 160 acres at $1.25 per acre, or by paying a $15 filing fee after 5 years of residence and cultivation.
The Homestead Law was seen as a great democratic measure by its supporters. Reform-minded easterners saw it as a way workers could escape low wages and deplorable working conditions. The law, however, was only a promise. The land was free, but traveling to the land, building a home, and breaking soil required capital. The environment also worked to defeat the dreams of many - especially in regions like this. More than 1.3 million claims were filed in the United States before 1900, but less than half proved successful.
By the turn of the century, lands previously valued only for grazing became valuable for agriculture as farmers adopted new techniques such as deep plowing and sowing drought-resistant crops. Because dryland farming required greater investment and more land, Congress passed the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909. This law, which allowed homesteaders to claim 320 acres, fueled a landrush already underway. Millions of acres fell under the plow and new communities sprang up across the West. many of the first homesteaders in this region arrived after 1909.
Today, visitors will enjoy exploring homestead houses, a church, a single-room school house, a log cabin, a general store, a trapper's cabin, a chuck wagon, a 19th-century well driller, horse-drawn farm equipment, and a blacksmith shop.
Note: Fort Rock Homestead Museum is only open during the summer (Memorial Day to Labor Day), Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
One of the Oregon's true Wild West experiences, the Silver Lake Cowboy Dinner Tree serves up some of the best and biggest steaks (30 ounces!) in the state, has some of the friendliest hosts, and is a must-stop for any visitor in the Fort Rock/Silver Lake area. While dining next to a wood-fired stove in the festooned cabin you'll have two choices for dinner, a 26- to 30-ounce top sirloin steak or a whole roasted chicken. Seriously, come prepared with an appetite as their pre-set meals aren't for lightweights.
From June 1 through October 31 the Silver Lake Cowboy Dinner Tree is open Thursday through Sunday from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; from November through May it is open from Friday through Sunday from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Reservations are required and only cash is accepted. Call 541.576.2426 for reservations and pricing. It is located 5.1 miles south of Silver Lake on E Bay Road/NF-28, roughly a 45-minute drive from Fort Rock.