About Us

The Museum

About Us

Discover the natural world and cultural history of the High Desert through artful exhibits, alluring animals, engaging programs and meaningful history.

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The High Desert Museum has been inspiring families since 1982 and is consistently rated as the top Central Oregon attraction by Trip Advisor. With 135 acres and more than 100,000 square feet of exhibit space in the Museum, it’s a “must see” for anyone travelling through – or living in – the region. Get a close-up view of native wildlife, such as river otters, porcupines and badgers. Talk with historic characters who share tales of early Oregon explorers and settlers. Visit an authentic homestead and sawmill from 1904.

Experience a close encounter with owls, falcons, hawks and even a vulture. Learn about Native American culture and history, and delight your children with one of many fun, hands-on programs that bring history and science to life.

The High Desert Museum is located just five minutes south of Bend, Oregon on Hwy 97, and includes a Museum store and café. Open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and Fourth of July.

Our Vision

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Our Mission

Through our exploration of the High Desert, the High Desert Museum cultivates a world where people and the landscape thrive together.
The High Desert Museum wildly excites and responsibly teaches through innovative, interdisciplinary experiences, creating connection to and dialogue about the High Desert.

Our Values

Curiosity The High Desert Museum evokes wonder to create and inspire lifelong learners.
RelevanceThe High Desert Museum leads by addressing community challenges, encouraging dialogue and building meaningful partnerships.
InclusionThe High Desert Museum welcomes everyone and strives to provide accessibility for all.
StewardshipThe High Desert Museum thoughtfully cares for all that is entrusted to us, being mindful of our responsibility to the past, present and future.
Cultural HumilityThe High Desert Museum respects diverse cultures and perspectives and continually challenges our biases.
IntegrityThe High Desert Museum is ethical in all that we do.

Donald M. Kerr

Our History

“I’ve raised a wolf and two great horned owls,” Kerr said. “I’ve been lucky to have these experiences that aren’t possible for most people. I wanted to bring others closer to nature, to experience it, to learn to maintain it.”

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Donald M. Kerr, a native of Portland, Oregon, was very aware of the preciousness of the High Desert landscape and its abundant life and fragility. He was a teacher to the core and felt strongly that if people were provided with good information, they would make wise decisions about this place he loved.

He determined that the best way to help people see what he saw and feel what he felt, to become stewards of this place and its resources, was to create the High Desert Museum. When he set his sights on something, the word “no” dropped from his vocabulary.

But it kept showing up, especially among potential donors. When Don told Robert Chandler, editor and publisher of The Bulletin, what he planned, Chandler said, “You need to get a real job. This’ll never work.” Don persisted and Bob Chandler became one of the Museum’s strongest supporters.

When the Museum opened in 1982, not even Don Kerr could he have imagined how those seeds of wonder, discovery and connection to place that he planted would blossom and grow, educate and enrich, hundreds of thousands of children and adults who come from near and far to experience what Don created.

2021 – 2022 Board of Trustees

Executive Director: Dana Whitelaw

Board Chair: Nelson Mathews

Collections Chair: Cameron Kerr

Finance Chair: Lori Ray

Development Chair: Tom Triplett

Governance Chair: Josh Newton

Marilyn Beem

Ryan W. Bounds

Gretchen Brooks

Bobby Brunoe

Abigail Cannon

Kathryn Collins

Gary Cutler

Gail Hayes Davis

Julie Drinkward

Jim Franzen

Ryan Hagemann

Maria Hall

Peter J. Hall

Margi Heater

Andy Jordan

Connie Kearney

Albert Kennedy

Shana Laursen

Randy Miller

Romy Mortensen

Kevin Palmer

Don Paterson

Peter Richter

Steve Shropshire

Susan Skalski

Justin Snyder

Phyllis Swindells

Rich Wininger

Life Trustee: Michael P. Hollern

2021 – 2022 Advisory Council:

Bob Boyd

Elaine Brong

Ron Cochran

Peggy Cushman

Robert Dahl

Win Francis

Linda Goodman

Peter Holzer

Bill Hutchison

Randy Labbe

Tim McGinnis

Nancy Oren

Rick Parker

Jordan Schnitzer

John Shelk

David Souther

Gretchen Willison