July: Oregon Road Trip

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Inspired by Travel Oregon's "The Seven Wonders of Oregon"   travel oregon

A Mountain in Midsummer
by Ethel Romig Fuller, 1933

Her ermine mantle and her robe
Of diamond-sewn brocade,
Her ruff of lace, her silver shoes
Are worn and summer-frayed

And yet she stands aloof and proud
A queen for all her tatters,
Communing with the cool, wise stars
Upon celestial matters.


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Crater Lake

crater handcolor

Crater Lake National Park
by Stephen R. Mark

As a focal point in the Cascade Range for almost a half million visitors each year, Crater Lake National Park is a place where beauty arose from cataclysmic events. Over seven millennia ago, the eruption and collapse of Mount Mazama generated such quantities of ash that it formed a distinct layer over several thousand square miles. The ash signifies North America's largest volcanic event of the Holocene epoch (10,000 years ago to present) and constitutes what is likely the most recognizable "time marker" in the stratigraphy of the Pacific Northwest.



Mount Mazama
by Stephen R. Mark

Mount Mazama is located in the southern part of the Cascade Range, about sixty miles north of the Oregon-California state line. It holds Crater Lake (giiwas in the Klamath language), at 1,943 feet the deepest freshwater body of water in the United States. Much of the mountain is a caldera formed by a massive volcanic eruption and collapse after the magma chamber emptied tons of material over a wide area. This climactic event, which took place about 7,700 years ago, was more than forty times as powerful as the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.




William G. Steele
by Stephen R. Mark

Born in Ohio on September 7, 1854, William Gladstone Steel was raised in an abolitionist family that provided refuge for escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad. In 1872, he moved with his family to Portland, where he graduated from high school and then apprenticed as a pattern maker in an iron works. By 1885, when Steel was employed in Portland's post office, he decided to see Crater Lakefor the first time. The trip inspired him to lead a campaign for Crater Lake to receive national park status, but it expanded to include promoting the idea of retaining Oregon's Cascade Range in federal ownership.


Oregon Commemorative Quarter
by Lee Juillerat

In 2005, Crater Lake was featured on the Oregon State Quarter, part of the U.S. Mint's State Quarter Program, which began in 1999. As the thirty-third state, the Oregon quarter was thirty-third in the series.

Crater Lake was selected as the state's iconic symbol. The tail side features Crater Lake as viewed from the south-southwest and includes Wizard Island, the Watchman, and Hillman Peak. The head's side has the standard bust of George Washington. Governor Ted Kulongoski credited his wife, Mary Oberst, with persuading him to choose the lake: “She told me, ‘You better get something unique to Oregon.’ ‘What’s that?’ She said, 'Crater Lake,' and she was right.” Other themes considered included the Oregon Trail, Mount Hood, and a Chinook salmon.

Smith Rock

smith rock header


smith rock

Smith Rock State Park
by Jason McClaughry and Paul Patton

Smith Rock State Park encompasses 652 acres near Redmond and Terrebonne, in the semi-arid High Desert of central Oregon. This landscape of rock spires, cliffs, and canyonlands lies along the northern edge of the Crooked River caldera, a 26-mile long, 17-mile wide volcanic depression formed through a series of super-volcanic eruptions between 29.7 and 27.5 million years ago. Eruptions from the Crooked River caldera deposited massive volumes (>140 cubic miles) of tuff and rhyolitic lavas, dikes, and domes. All of these volcanic features are now well exposed in the rock walls of Smith Rock State Park. 


High Desert
by Jeff LaLande

The geographic definition of the High Desert is not bounded by any formally recognized limits. The term “high desert” may have first appeared on Oregon maps in the early twentieth century to designate a rocky upland area near the center of the state—northernmost Lake County and southeastern Deschutes County. By the late twentieth century, the news media and others had used the term for virtually all of the state east of the Cascade Range, excluding the Blue Mountains. Neither one of these definitions is particularly useful. The smaller, older, cartographic “high desert” has become an archaic term, while the newer, more expansive “high desert” includes parts of eastern Oregon that are neither “high” nor “desert.”

  crooked river

Crooked River
by Scott Cohen

The Crooked River Basin lies in the heart of central Oregon, east of the Cascade Mountains and Deschutes River and south of the John Day River. The appropriately named Crooked River, fed primarily by mountain creeks and springs, twists and turns for 155 miles before emptying into the Deschutes River and Lake Billy Chinook. In some sections, the Crooked has carved deep canyons through the landscape; in others, a broad floodplain reveals the river's historic penchant for creating new channels during heavy floods.

  crooked river bridge

Newberry National Volcanic Monument
by William Cornett

Newberry Crater, as it is commonly known, is a large shield volcano east of the Cascade Range in central Oregon. The area was named for Dr. John Strong Newberry, a naturalist with a U.S. Army expedition in 1857-1858 whose purpose was to survey railroad routes through the region. The over 50,000-acre area was designated a monument in 1990 and features a visitor's center showcasing and explaining the unique active lava lands. Over sixty miles of hiking trails wind through the monument, ranging from short roadside interpretive trails to the 21-mile Crater Rim trail.

Mt. Hood



Mt. Hood
by Jon Bell

Mount Hood is a stratovolcano in northwest Oregon located about fifty miles east of Portlandand thirty-five miles south of the Columbia River. At 11,244 feet, it is the highest point in Oregon and the fourth highest peak in the Cascade Range. Mount Hood has played a central role in the geology, history, natural environment, and culture that have helped shape northwest Oregon and the entire Pacific Northwest.


by John Jack Grauer

On March 19, 1894, the Oregonian announced a meeting at the Portland Savings Bank to organize a mountain climbing club on the summit of Mount Hood. The organizers were former officers of the defunct Oregon Alpine Club: William G. Steel, Charles H. Sholes, J. Francis Drake, Francis C. Little, Oliver C. Yocum, and Martin W. Gorman. They agreed to name the club the Mazamas, after the Spanish name for mountain goat.


Timberline Lodge
by Sarah Munro

Timberline Lodge is the showplace for Works Progress Administration projects in Oregon. Its construction was financed with nearly a million dollars from the WPA and additional funding from the Federal Art Project for furnishings and art.

With WPA funds available in December 1935, Gilbert Stanley Underwood was selected as consulting architect. 

  barlow road

Barlow Road
by Nathan Pedersen

The Barlow Road is a historic wagon road that created a new route on the Oregon Trail in 1846. Until the road was opened, the overland portion of the Oregon Trail effectively ended in The Dalles. Mount Hood, and the Cascade Range in general, was an insurmountable obstacle to early wagon trains. 

Painted Hills

painted hills
john day

John Day Fossil Beds
by Ellen Bishop

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument showcases one of the world’s best and most continuous records of the Tertiary, the time from about 50 million years to 5 million years ago that is generally regarded as the Age of Mammals. The fossils found in the National Monument’s three units helped define the evolution of horses, cameloids, felines, canids, and other important mammal lineages.

The John Day Fossil Beds is a name generally applied to both the national monument—three units totaling approximately 25 square miles in Wheeler and Grant Counties in north-central Oregon—and, more broadly, the more than 20,000 square miles of John Day Basin and adjacent lands that expose fossil-bearing strata of Paleocene to Miocene age.


by Jarold Ramsey

Mitchell, the second largest town in Wheeler County (Fossil is the largest), had a population of 130 in 2010. It is located along Bridge Creek just off U.S. Highway 26, forty-seven miles east of Prinevilleand sixty-eight miles west of John Day. The community began in the 1860s as a stage stop on The Dalles–John Day Military Road, which served gold-mining operations to the east. More recently, it supported logging and cattle ranching, with Hudspeth Land and Logging Company a major presence until the 1980s. Mitchell is a gateway to the popular Painted Hills unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and a focal point for rock hounds.


by Jack Lorts

The town of Fossil is the county seat of Wheeler County and the cultural and economic piston for a large geographical area. The town comes alive during the summer months when it hosts the Wheeler County Bluegrass Festival and a Cruz-In over the Fourth of July weekend, as well as the Wheeler County Fair and Rodeo the first week in August.


Strawberry Mountains
by Ellen Bishop

The Strawberry Mountains—among the highest peaks in the Blue Mountain Range—extend east-west through northeast Oregon in Grant County, south of the John Day Highway in the Malheur National Forest. Along with the Aldrich Mountains to the west, the Strawberry Mountains have been uplifted and shoved north along the now-inactive John Day fault. The range is split by a major fault along Indian Creek that has uplifted the much older rocks to the west.



Joseph (town)
by Nathan Pedersen

The town of Joseph, situated at the base of the Wallowa Mountains at the southern edge of the three valleys of the Wallowa River, is the cultural and tourism center of northeastern Oregon. The striking beauty of the town’s natural surroundings lent it the nickname Little Switzerland of America. That moniker may have originated with one of the town's signature festivals, the Alpenfest, which began in 1975 as an annual celebration of Swiss and Bavarian culture.


Heinmot Tooyalakekt (Chief Joseph)
by Elliott West

Heinmot Tooyalakekt (Thunder Rising to Loftier Mountain Heights), also known as Chief Joseph, was a prominent figure among the Nimiipuu, or Nez Perce. He is best remembered as a leader during the Nez Perce War of 1877. Although his role in that conflict is much misunderstood, Joseph participated significantly in events leading up to the war, and his shrewd leadership afterward was critical to the Nez Perces’ successful return from exile to the Pacific Northwest.

  chief joseph

Tamkaliks Celebration
by Mary Hawkins

Tamkaliks Celebration takes place each July in Wallowa as a celebration and recognition of Niimiipuu (Nez Perce) presence in the Wallowa Valley. The event began in 1990 when the City of Wallowa invited Taz Conner, a descendant of Tuekakas (Old Chief Joseph), to help plan a festival.

The first year, the Wallowa Band Nez Perce Pow Wow and Friendship Feast, as it was called, was held in the high school gym and on the school grounds. By the third year, the powwow had grown so large that it was moved outside to a five-acre site donated by a local farmer. In 1998, the event was renamed Tamkaliks, which means “from where you can see the mountains” in Nez Perce, and moved to the Homeland Project property which is owned by the Wallowa Band Nez Perce Trail Interpretive Center, a nonprofit created in 1995. The center is building a longhouse on the site in the summer of 2015.

  snake river

Snake River
by Todd Shallat

The Snake River has its headwaters at an elevation of 8,200 feet on the Two Ocean Plateau, in the icy highlands of the Continental Divide in Wyoming. Roaring down the Idaho face of the Rockies, surging with snowmelt from the Yellowstone Plateau, the Snake cuts through deep, spectacular canyons. At Shoshone Falls near present-day Twin Falls, Idaho, the channel plunges into a gorge, falling 212 feet to form falls higher than Niagara Falls. Turning north at Ontario, the river follows the Idaho-Oregon line through mile-deep Hells Canyon and than past Idaho’s barge port at Lewiston to Pasco, Washington, where it joins the Columbia. Flowing 1,076 miles from source to mouth, the Snake is the nation’s thirteenth longest river and the largest tributary to the Columbia. 


sandune header 
south slough

South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
by David Lunde

The South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (SSNERR)—an element of the South Slough watershed and inlet—is part of the larger Coos estuary and watershed located on the southern Oregon Coast. The rich biodiversity of the estuary has attracted people for more than 1,500 years, and it continues to play a vital role in the commercial, ecological, and recreational life of the South Coast.


Oregon Dunes
by Courtney Cloyd

Miles and miles of windblown sand. The Oregon Dunes stretch for fifty-four miles, from Heceta Head north of Florence to Cape Arago just south of Coos Bay. Well over 100,000 years old, this dune complex of roughly 40,000 acres covers the largest area of any dune system on the West Coast of North America. Its eastern boundary is more than three miles from the shore for much of its length.

  orgon dunes

Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge
by Ulrich H. Hardt

At fifteen acres, Three Arch Rocks lays claim to being one of the smallest wildlife refuges in the world as well as one of the smallest designated wilderness areas in the United States. Yet, with its nesting for a million seabirds of thirteen species, it is one of the most populous sanctuaries anywhere.

Three Arch Rocks and six smaller rocks are situated a half mile offshore at Oceanside, Oregon, nine miles west of Tillamook. Captain Meares named them “the Three Brothers” on July 6, 1778; but it was two young naturalists, William L. Finley and Herman T. Bohlman of Portland, who in summer 1901 brought the plight of the islands to wide attention when they spent several weeks photographing the slaughter of thousands of birds and dozens of sea lions each weekend by thrill seekers.

  three arch
  highway 101

Highway 101 (Oregon Coast Highway)
by Robert W. Hadlow

Many places on the Oregon coast were virtually inaccessible in the early twentieth century. Small fishing villages existed as remote outposts, separated by rocky headlands and timber-covered hills. The Roosevelt Coast Military Highway, named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, was a result of a renewed national sense of isolationism and the perceived need for emergency preparedness following World War I. In 1919, Oregon voters approved the sale of $2.5 million in bond obligations for the project, but matching federal funds failed to materialize.

Columbia River Gorge

wahkeena falls  

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
by Carl Abbott

Established by Congress in 1986, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area extends eighty-five miles along both sides of  the Columbia River, from the Sandy River to the Deschutes River, and extends between one and four miles from the river in Oregon and Washington. 

The legislation provided protection for the scenic and natural resources of the Columbia River Gorge, which is a source of hydroelectric power (from Bonneville and The Dalles dams) and a continental transportation corridor (two major railroads, barge navigation, and Interstate-84). 


Columbia River Highway
by Robert W. Hadlow

The Columbia River Highway, now known as the Historic Columbia River Highway, was a technical and civic achievement of its time, successfully mixing ambitious engineering with a sensitivity to the magnificent landscape of the Columbia River Gorge. Entrepreneur and Good Roads promoter Samuel Hill teamed up with engineer and landscape architect Samuel C. Lancaster to create a highway that would make the idyllic natural setting accessible to tourists without unduly marring its beauty. When the first section of road opened in 1915, the Columbia River Highway became the first paved highway in the Pacific Northwest.


Columbia River
by William L. Lang

For more than ten millennia, the Columbia River has been the most important and intensively used part of Oregon’s natural landscape. The river’s main stem gathers water from ten principal tributaries that drain 259,000 square miles in seven U.S. states and one Canadian province.

In Oregon, the largest tributaries are the Snake, Willamette, Deschutes, John Day, and Umatilla Rivers. Each arises in mountainous terrain and carries significant minerals in suspension to create alluvial valleys, notably the Willamette, one of the most fertile regions in western North America.

  columbia rvier   bridge of the gods  

Bridge of the Gods
by Jim O'Connor

In the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, a 1,858-foot-long steel-truss bridge spans the Columbia River at Cascade Locks, about forty miles east of Portland. The Bridge of the Gods, first built in 1926, derives its name from a much larger Bridge of the Gods that covered a part of the Columbia River in about 1450 AD. The earlier “bridge” was a blockage caused by the Bonneville Landslide, which headed on the southern escarpment of the 3,417-foot-high Table Mountain on the Washington side of the river and cascaded downward, filling the Columbia River valley with more than five square miles of debris up to 400 feet thick.