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The “Not-Quite Ghost Town” of SHANIKO, OR




Gary B. Speck




Shaniko is located on US Highway 97, in north-central Oregon's high grasslands, 39 miles north of Madras, and 58 miles south of Biggs at an elevation of 3340’.  It was named after August Scherneckau, an early settler who farmed the area shortly after the Civil War.  Shaniko replaced a smaller 1880s community called Cross Hollows and began its boom period in early 1900 as in May it became the southern terminus for the Columbia Southern Railroad, which was run south from the Union Pacific line at Biggs Junction.  The railroad spur was run to tap into the massively rich wool market, a market ripe for the picking due to the extensive sheep raising in the eastern Oregon grasslands area. The Shaniko Post Office opened on Mar 31, 1900, and Shaniko quickly became the number one wool-shipping center in Oregon, claiming the title “Wool Capital of the World.” 


Shaniko incorporated on February 9, 1901.  At that time the town had a bank, a couple blacksmith shops, city hall/fire station/3-cell jail, three hotels, two newspapers, a post office, five saloons, school, two stores and many other structures.  Church services were held in the school building.  In the 1910 census, Shaniko claimed a population of 600.  In 1911, a fire ripped through town and Shaniko never fully recovered.  The railroad down in Bend (70 miles to the south) pulled the traffic away from Shaniko, and it slowly faded.  By 1930 the population had decreased to 100.


In 2009 the downtown crossroads was still marked by the refurbished, but closed, two-story, brick Shaniko Hotel; the wooden, two-story City Hall; livery stable/blacksmith shop; large, open wagon barn; a massive tin-roofed wool shed, old mossy-roofed cabins and a couple strips of wooden buildings. The Shaniko Post Office, small general store, café, museum and several antiques shops still serve the remaining 26 citizens, as does a small travel trailer outfitted into the Ghostly Brew Expresso dispensary!  The gas station is no longer open but it was open 1985.  Other notable structures include the restored three-room schoolhouse, which was used from 1901-1946 and restored in the 1990s.  The 1900 era water tower still stands, its twin 10,000-gallon tanks now gone.


At the time of our visit on August 6, 2009, I spoke with one of the shop proprietors, and she indicated that the Shaniko Hotel has been closed since 2007 and is currently for sale.  The owner of the hotel also owns a nearby ranch – the ranch’s brand is incised on the large wooden sculptures of cowboy partners sitting on the front porch of the old hotel.  The rest of the town thrives on its near-ghost town status, pulling in travelers off US 97.  For the first time ever, there is now a church building in Shaniko.  The old Bakeoven School has been moved to town and serves as a wedding chapel.  Bakeoven is a ghost town site located near Maupin, northwest of Shaniko.  Other interesting relics of the bygone days include a bunch of old theater seats sitting on the front porch of the wool shed, fire hydrants, a very picturesque old fire truck, lots of old cars, trucks and even an old jail wagon. 


The Shaniko Hotel (formerly known as the Columbia Southern Hotel) and the Shaniko Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Shaniko even has a website at:



SEE a 1985 PHOTO of Shaniko.

All Photos added in the August 2009 update were taken in August 2009.



·        Latitude: 45.0037364 / 45° 00’ 13” N

·        Longitude: -120.7522665 / 120° 45’ 08” W

·        E-Ctr Sec 36, T6S, R16E, Willamette Base Line & Meridian





This was our GHOST TOWN OF THE MONTH for May 2004.




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FIRST POSTED:  May 01, 2004

LAST UPDATED: November 17, 2012





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