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Think Out Loud

Our Town Eastern Oregon

Pete Springer/OPB

Today we’re bringing you highlights from the Our Town shows in eastern Oregon: Monument, Baker City and Ontario.


As part of the Our Town series, we’re traveled to Monument. According to the 2010 census, this southeastern Oregon town on the John Day River has a population of 128. That doesn’t include people who live in outlying areas who are also part of the community. Ranching is the primary source of employment for people in Monument. This website devoted to the town describes it as a place where wildlife is plentiful:

Rocky mountain elk and mule deer are well know for coming down from the mountains and feeding in the local alfalfa fields and hay stacks. Steelhead spawn in the small creeks that feed into the John Day River, along with small mouth bass and trout. Occasionally, beavers, bald eagles, ospreys, badgers, rock chucks, geese, whooping cranes, antelopes, bobcats, cougars, coyotes and even a rattlesnake can be seen.

People make all kinds of accommodations to live in a town like Monument. The closest doctor’s office is 60 miles away in John Day. There’s a small convenience store in town, but people do most of their grocery shopping elsewhere. One resident told us she drives to Bend — three or four hours away, depending on what route she takes — to shop at Costco once a month.

You can learn much more about Monument, see a slideshow of the people and places, and listen to the whole show here. Here are some photos shot during the Think Out Loud taping at the Monument Senior Center:

Baker City

Baker City is a town that has seen a lot of ups and downs. The community of about 10,000 is situated in the high desert of eastern Oregon, surrounded by sagebrush and snow-dusted mountains. More than 100 years ago, miners came in search of gold and then settled in.

Today, Baker City is embracing its history while also forging a new economic path. For one thing, the community is working to bring tourism to downtown. Baker City is not near any other metropolitan areas, which means it’s a place that attracts people who really want to live there. As Baker City resident Ann Mehaffy says, people live in Baker either because they grew up there and they know it and love it, or because they’re “city runaways who are looking for a sense of authenticity, history and community.”

Here’s the companion website about Baker City.


Next up in our tour of eastern Oregon is Ontario. It’s virtually as far east in Oregon as you can get — right next to the Idaho border and on Mountain Time. In fact, the city’s website describes Ontario as, “where Oregon begins.” Ontario’s population is only 11,000, but many times that number come to shop and work.

In this segment we’ll talk more about the huge part agriculture plays in the economy. For example, an estimated 40 percent of the nation’s onions come from this region. We’ll also hear about Ontario’s diverse population and its community spirit.

Here’s the companion website for this show. Head over there to check out our interactive map which includes interviews and photographs of the people and places of Ontario.

Here’s a collection of photos from Reid Saito’s farm and the live show from Mackey’s:

Do you live or work in eastern Oregon? What’s your experience there?

baker city eastern oregon monument ontario our town

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