125 miles E of The Dalles, 52 miles NW of La Grande, 40 miles S of Walla Walla, WA
If not for its famous woolen mills, few people outside the Northwest would be familiar with the Pendleton name. But because the blankets and clothing long manufactured by the Pendleton Woolen Mills (here and at other mills around the region) have gained such a reputation, the name has become as much a part of the West as Winchester, Colt, and Wells Fargo. Today Pendleton blankets and clothing are as popular as ever, and this town's mill is one of its biggest attractions.
But what brings even more visitors to town than the mill is a single annual event -- the Pendleton Round-Up. Located at the western foot of the Blue Mountains in northeastern Oregon, Pendleton prides itself on being a real Western town; and as the site of one of the largest and oldest rodeos in the West, it has a legitimate claim. Each year in mid-September, the round-up fills the town with cowboys and cowgirls, both real and urban. For the rest of the year, Pendleton sinks back into its quiet small-town character and begins preparing for the next round-up.
Once the homeland of the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Nez Perce Indians, the Pendleton area began attracting settlers in the 1840s, as pioneers who had traveled the Oregon Trail started farming along the Umatilla River. In the 1850s, gold strikes created boom towns in the nearby mountains, and Pendleton gained greater regional significance. Sheep ranching and wheat farming later became the mainstays of the local economy, and by the turn of the century, Pendleton was a rowdy town boasting dozens of saloons and bordellos. Today Pendleton is a much quieter place, one that few people notice as they rush by on the interstate. But those who do pull off find a quiet town whose downtown historic district is filled with attractive brick buildings and some stately old Victorian homes.