Elgin, the Jewel of the Blue Mountains, is nestled in a valley between the Wallowa Mountains to the east and the Blue Mountains to the west, with the Grande Ronde River flowing right down the middle.
The town got its humble start around 1882 as a gathering place for trappers and hunters to replenish their supplies. By 1887 Elgin had general stores, a livery, a hotel, and a church, as well as a nearby sawmill, which continues today as the Boise Cascade mill. Timber was king in those days and between 1887 and 1908, the area around Elgin had 35 sawmills. With the arrival of the train line from La Grande in 1890, Elgin enjoyed a period of growth and prosperity. And what do you do when your town is booming? If you’re Elgin, you build one heck of an Opera House.
The pride of Elgin is the Elgin Opera House. Ever a practical people, the residents decided that this stately building would serve as both a center for performing arts and their city hall. Modeled after European opera houses, this building has it all: hand-pressed tin ceilings, plush draperies, chandeliers, a slanted floor for better sight lines and acoustics, as well as municipal offices, city council chambers and even a tiny jail in the basement. Over the years, $12,000 has been contributed to the restoration of the Opera House through grants from the Cycle Oregon Fund. The Elgin Opera House enjoys the distinction of being Oregon’s oldest operating movie theatre and continues to host films and live performances of all types. If you find yourself in Elgin with time to catch a show, you’re in for a really unique treat.
Elgin sits right in the middle of forests, mountains, canyons and rivers, which also makes it a great place for getting outside and exploring. The area’s snowy winters draw snowmobilers and skiers to several nearby sno-parks and Spout Springs Ski Area, while the warm days of summer are great for camping, hiking and water recreation.
If you’re looking for a perspective you just can’t get anywhere else, buy yourself a ticket to ride on the Eagle Cap Excursion Train. This historic rail line leaves its depot in Elgin and chugs northeast through the spectacularly scenic roadless landscape towards the town of Minam.
And since taking in all that scenery can really work up an appetite, there are several local restaurants ready to fill your belly with home-style cooking. Check out the Brunswick Restaurant for good food and a respectable Taco Tuesday, C-Zers for the classic burger, fries and milkshakes drive-in experience, and Cowboy and Angel’s Place for a family style feast served up with a side of love.
For generations, trappers, hunters and Native Americans have been passing through this valley and to this day Elgin remains the perfect place to take a break from your travels, replenish your supplies, and bask in the natural beautiful that is all around.