Durkee Valley, Baker County, Oregon
If Baker County is a microcosm of Western development, Durkee valley is a postage stamp sized microcosm.
It enfolds the story of the West; from the Indian trail to Oregon Trail to cattle to Transcontinental railroads and highway to modern industry, just across the fence.
The Oregon Trail proceeded up the Burnt River, where the way was rocky, rough, and ruinous to pioneer stock and wagons.
It should cause no wonder that pioneers took to the hills above the Burnt River Canyon wherever possible.
One such diversion was the trail up Sisley Creek and down Swazey to elude the grasp of the canyon near Nelson Point, but yet to enter the luxurious little Durkee valley.
At the upper end of the valley Burnt River tumbled from its brawling passage through Burnt River Canyon. Here it flowed through a pioneer paradise with lush green pasture, level ground, and a place to rest after the grueling pull from Farewell Bend. This was Express until later named Durkee.
It was natural that sheep and cattlemen should see this as desirable for ranching. To the east a dozen miles is the Lookout mountain range, used by Indians as a key Lookout and by ranchers as sheep and cattle range.
To the south is the Pedro mountain range, Morman Basin and Rye Valley. To the northeast is the saddle between Burnt and Powder River drainages.
In 1880-1884, the railroad sought this route. Durkee prospered as a construction and maintenance area.
Attempting to avoid the Burnt River Canyon, one branch of the Oregon Trail passed through the high mountain placer country known as Rye Valley and dropped into the lower end of Durkee valley.
Durkee has retained its "home" atmosphere of family ranches, had its school, Grange, Village Store and Church, and a blacksmith shop.
The Ash Grove Cement West, Inc. plant, (formerly Oregon-Portland Cement), is one of Baker County's largest industries. (JRE)
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