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Ghost Towns: Shaniko, OR

It Doesn't Get Spookier Than This

Spooky Season has arrived! 

The wind is chilled, the leaves are changing, and through this period of transition, we find a reinvigorated sense of adventure. 

Happy Campers RV Rentals is here to inspire and encourage your new found Fall feelings! Let’s dig into the spirit of the season together, as we take you on a journey to some of the best Ghost Town destinations in Oregon! It’s time to pack up your costumes, consolidate your candy, and hit the open road on a Halloween destination vacation. 

Ghost towns have always been a fascinating subject. Towns are not created with the intent to become vacant. What celebrations took place in its streets? How did its founders envision the future? What hopes did settlers have when they arrived to a new life? 

The first stop on our Oregon Tour of Ghost Towns is none other than Shaniko!

"It is fascinating to walk around and appreciate how much of the town’s past is still preserved. Shaniko is a great, tangible lesson in local history that should be added to the list of places to see when exploring Central Oregon."

Table of Contents

A Brief History of Shaniko

Shaniko is a city located in Wasco CountyOregonUnited States, about 8 miles north of Antelope. The population was 36 at the 2010 census.

The first European Americans came to the Shaniko area after the discovery of gold in Canyon City, Oregon, in 1862. One of these settlers was August Scherneckau, who came to the area after the Civil War, in 1874. The spelling of the town’s name reflects the local pronunciation of Scherneckau’s name. The town was originally called Cross Hollows.

The town’s heyday was the first decade of the 20th century when Shaniko served as a transportation hub spurred by the presence of the Columbia Southern Railway. the city was known as the “Wool Capital of the World”, and it was the center of 20,000 square miles of wool, wheat, cattle, and sheep production, with no other such center east of the Cascade Range in Oregon. 

By 1911, the Oregon–Washington Railroad and Navigation Company, another Union Pacific subsidiary, began using an alternate route linking Portland to Bend by way of the Deschutes River canyon. The new line, advertised as the “direct, quick and natural route”, diverted traffic from the Columbia Southern, and Shaniko begin to decline. Passenger service to Shaniko ended in the early 1930s, and the entire line was shut down by 1966. By 1982 Shaniko was nearly a ghost town.

Shaniko Quick Facts

  1. 1
    Population
    The population of Shaniko as of 2015 is 37 residents. At it's peak, Shaniko housed approximately 495 individuals, but was down to less than half of that population a mere decade later. Since its inception, the lowest population Shaniko has seen is 26 residents, between 1990 and 2000.
  2. 2
    Industry
    The residents of Shaniko voted to incorporate Shaniko and elected a mayor, F. T. Hurlbert, and other city officials on January 1, 1902. It was Wasco County's fifth largest city, boasting the largest wool warehouse in the state, from which 4 million pounds (1.8 kt) (2,000 tons) were marketed in 1901. It was surrounded by cattle ranches, which produced livestock for shipment that filled 400 railroad cars that year.
  3. 3
    Shaniko Today
    Each year in August, Shaniko Days attracts as many as four hundred people on a weekend. The Shaniko Preservation Guild, organized in 2004, operates a museum, hosts an annual Wool Gathering, and sponsors the annual Tygh Valley Bluegrass Jamboree and the Ragtime and Vintage Music Festival. In 2010, Shaniko had thirty-six residents.
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