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Wonders of Oregon

South Falls in Silver Falls State Park.
South Falls in Silver Falls State Park./ Travel Salem, Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

WorldBlue  Highlights

Oregon can be proud of its special natural beauty. Mighty rivers cross the mountainous landscape through magnificent ravines and canyons and the frequent rain has created countless waterfalls. In the lush forests grow trees of incredible size and at the sea can be observed unusual landmarks – blowholes including the somewhat mysterious looking Thor’s Well.

Man-made heritage in Oregon is less impressive. There are rather few archaeological monuments, including scattered petroglyphs. In the state are located several very impressive bridges, and there are also some interesting architectural monuments including the first major structure in Post-Modern style.

Map with the described wonders of Oregon

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WorldViolet Top 25 wonders of Oregon

Geological wonders

Crater Lake (Oregon)

Klamath County

Round, beautiful lake in the caldera of Mount Mazuma volcano. The caldera is 655 m deep and formed geologically recently: 7,700 years ago when the volcano collapsed. The lake is 594 m deep – the deepest in the United States.

Crater Lake, Oregon
Crater Lake, Oregon./ apasciuto, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Multnomah Falls

Multnomah County

Very tall waterfall with three main drops, 194 m tall. A picturesque bridge is below the tallest drop.

Multnomah Falls, Oregon
Multnomah Falls / Chris Miller, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Oregon Caves

Josephine County

These beautiful show caves were discovered in 1874. Caves have formed in marble and through the cave system flows a river – River Styx. The total length of passages is around 4,600 m. The cave contains valuable fossils including remnants of a grizzly bear, jaguar, and others.

Oregon Caves
Oregon Caves./ Jeff Hollett, Flickr / public domain
Smith Rock

Deschutes County

Spectacular, vertical cliffs at Crooked River. A popular site for climbing, the cliffs are up to 180 m high.

Landscape from Smith Rock
Landscape from Smith Rock. / Eli Duke, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Borax Lake

Harney County

A thermal lake that is fed by hot springs. The temperature of the lake’s surface is between 16 and 38 degrees C and also higher. Lake water contains a lot of borax, arsenic, and lead. Nevertheless, here lives a unique fish – Borax Lake chub (Gila boraxobius).

Borax Lake
Borax Lake. / QDM, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0
Toketee Falls

Douglas County

Waterfall of unusual beauty. It has two closely located cascades with a total height of 37 meters. The lower plunge falls over a columnar basalt cliff.

Toketee Falls
Toketee Falls./ U.S. Forest Service- Pacific Northwest Region, Flickr / public domain
Columbia River Gorge

Located in Washington State as well

Gorgeous canyon of Columbia River, up to 1,200 m deep. The canyon is some 130 km long and has numerous very impressive waterfalls. Microhabitats along the canyon contain unique, endemic species of plants.

Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge. / Jon Dickson, Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0
Thor’s Well

Lincoln County

Hole in the rocks at the sea that looks as if the ocean is drained in it. This is a 6-7 m wide hole, also 6-7 m deep. It is at its most impressive approximately one hour before the high tide. At high waves, it creates some meters-high splashes.

Thor's Well
Thor’s Well./ Oregon Department of Transportation, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Sea Lion Caves

Lane County

A system of enormous sea caves with up to 38 m tall ceilings. Here lives a group of Steller’s sea lions – during the winter there are hundreds of them. Discovered in 1880.

Sea Lion Caves, Oregon
Sea Lion Caves, Oregon./ Kristina D.C. Hoeppner, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Tumalo Falls

Deschutes County

Impressive, 27 m tall waterfall. The waterfall is comparatively wide and has a single plunge.

Tumalo Falls
Tumalo Falls. / Amy Meredith, Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0
Little Crater Lake

Clackamas County

Impressive, deep blue spring lake. The lake is 14 m deep and could be formed as a maar: due to groundwater explosion caused by the volcanic heat.

Little Crater Lake
Little Crater Lake. / Bonnie Moreland, Flickr / public domain
Latourell Falls

Multnomah County

Beautiful, 76 m tall waterfall. It falls with a single plunge over a basalt overhang. In the basalt are well-visible columnar formations.

Latourell Falls
Latourell Falls./ Bonnie Moreland, Flickr / public domain

Lake County

Large, circular maar – a volcanic explosion crater. Its diameter is some 1,600 m, the floor is around 150 m below the surroundings but the rim around the crater is 35 to 65 m high. This maar formed some 13.5 – 18 thousand years ago.

Hole-in-the-Ground, Oregon
Hole-in-the-Ground, Oregon./ DanSeattle, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Mickey Hot Springs

Harney County

Geothermal field with thermal springs and mud pots. The hottest springs are boiling. Here have existed also intermittent springs.

Mickey Hot Springs
Mickey Hot Springs. / Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Painted Hills

Wheeler County

Spectacular outcroppings of colored rocks over a larger area. There are red-colored laterite outcroppings, dark-colored layers of lignite, and grey-colored mudstone, siltstone, and shale layers. Rocks contain many fossils of early horses, camels, and other animals.

Painted Hills, Oregon
Painted Hills, Oregon./ Francis Storr, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Salt Creek Falls

Lane County

Beautiful 87 m tall waterfall. It hits the rock in the upper part but then falls freely through the air over the rock overhang.

Salt Creek Falls
Salt Creek Falls. / James Wellington, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Crack in the Ground

Lake County

Unusual volcanic formation – some 3.2 km long and up to 9 m deep crack. It formed by the sinking of an enormous block of the ground after a volcanic eruption. It is possible to walk on the base of this crack.

Crack in the Ground, Oregon
Crack in the Ground. / Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Elowah Falls

Multnomah County

65 m tall waterfall with a single plunge. It falls over a rock overhang.

Elowah Falls
Elowah Falls, Oregon./ Bill Reynolds, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Pumice Desert

Klamath County

Here a very thick layer of pumice and ash has created a dry area where the water permeates the ground too fast to sustain the vegetation.

Pumice Desert, Oregon
Pumice Desert, Oregon./ Bjorn, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Biological wonders

Doerner Fir

Coos County

The tallest coast Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii) in the world. Height 99.8 m, diameter 3.54 m, volume 237 m3. Some time ago was 100.3 m tall.

Doerner Fir
Doerner Fir. / Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Architecture wonders

Astoria – Megler Bridge

Pacific County

The longest continuous truss bridge in the United States. This 6.55 km long bridge was constructed in 1962-1966 across the Columbia River. The longest span is 376 m.

Astoria - Megler Bridge
Astoria – Megler Bridge. / OCVA, Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0
St. Johns Bridge

Multnomah County

This beautiful steel suspension bridge was constructed in 1931. The bridge towers have unusual Neo-Gothic forms. The bridge is 630 m long, the main span is 368 m long.

St. Johns Bridge in Portland
St. Johns Bridge in Portland. / Tony Webster, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Elsinore Theatre

Marion County

This theatre was constructed in a mix of Art Deco and Neo-Gothic styles in 1926. After lengthy attempts to save the theater, it was restored in 2004.

In the Elsinore Theatre, Salem
In the Elsinore Theatre, Salem. / Sheila Sund, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Hawthorne Bridge

Multnomah County

Historical truss bridge, constructed in 1910. It has a vertical lift that operates up to this day, rising a section of bridge from 15 m to 48 m above the river. This operation is repeated some 120 times per month.

Hawthorne Bridge, Portland
Hawthorne Bridge, Portland./ David Wood, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

WorldYellow Recommended books

Oregon’s Ancient Forests: A Hiking Guide

Dripping coastal forests of giant Douglas-firs, high desert groves of massive ponderosa pines, and lush mixed conifer forests surrounding jagged Cascade peaks–Oregon’s ancient forests are one of the region’s most precious treasures, providing not only vital habitat for fish and wildlife but also some of the most amazing hiking experiences in the state. Author Chandra LeGue of Oregon Wild wants you to know and love these incredible places and guides you to them with 91 awe-inspiring hikes that reveal the very soul of Oregon.

The Other Oregon

The Other Oregon: People, Environment, and History East of the Cascades is a multidisciplinary work that ranges widely through a diverse and often under-appreciated land, drawing on the fields of environmental history, cultural and physical geography, and natural resources management to tell a comprehensive and compelling story.

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