Discovered when potholes started showing up on the streets in the 1980s, the tunnels were built by Chinese workers who had been harshly discriminated against by the town's white population —to the point that it was unsafe for Chinese people to be out after sunset. In order to run businesses and move freely from place to place, hidden tunnels were built beneath the city, eventually forming a secret underground district that was home to both legal and illegal businesses.
Pendleton Underground Tours is a nonprofit that started giving tours of the tunnels in 1989.
The tour provides historical context to the dark side of Pendleton, including bootlegging, prostitution and gambling. It also tells the story of the Chinese who lived in Eastern Oregon and helped build the state to what it is today.