Oregon Travel

Icons of eastern Oregon

(Click on each image to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

During the past two months, I have traveled widely in Oregon. I always enjoy an Oregon road trip. The high and wide-open plateaus of north central and eastern Oregon, just before the Blue Mountains, rekindled my love of the open road and empty places.

I made two separate trips: one to Condon, in Gilliam County, and another to Pendleton, in Umatilla County. Gilliam County is bisected by the John Day River, a popular fishing and rafting destination. The landscape is dominated by a high plateau and constant wind, making it an ideal location for massive wind farms that sprout majestically above wheat fields. The county seat, Condon (pop. 682), is a charming community that felt alive and loved by its residents.

Pendleton (pop. 16,682) sits on the Interstate 84 corridor, further to the east, straddling a valley near the start of the Blue Mountains. The community is a true Western town. It is famous for its rodeo, woolen goods, and also whiskey. Nearby Umatilla is also famous for the now decommissioned 20,000-acre Umatilla Chemical Depot, run by the U.S. Army that was home to a massive stockpile of chemical weapons.

Agriculture, along with wind energy, are two major economic drivers in this sparsely populated area of Oregon. Native Americans have lived here for millennia. Pendleton lies within the ancestral lands of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, whose designs adorn Pendleton’s famous woolen blankets and more. The tribe also runs the Wildhorse Resort & Casino, a major economic resource for the area.

Visually, I was mostly struck by the iconic imagery presented by the grain elevators in both areas, along with the towering wind turbines. The site of large, manmade structures in mostly open spaces has always appealed to my visual sensibilities, wherever I may be.


Just another roadside attraction in Oregon

(Click on the picture to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

I have seen my share of roadside attractions and airports in my life. But every time I drive Oregon State Highway 18 to the coast, to surf, I marvel at the audacity of the  Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, created by Evergreen Aviation Airlines, an air cargo operation out of McMinnville Oregon. It has two 747s, including one mounted on the top of an air hangar (see it in the distance to the left of the photo).

The company was ubiquitous in Alaska during the six years I lived there, 2004 to 2010, so I feel a connection to Evergreen in my own personal way. Anchorage is one of the busiest air cargo hubs in the world, and I would see Evergreen air cargo planes parked with all of the other air cargo aircraft at Ted Stevens International Airport.

The museum is literally next to the highway, just before you turn off for McMinnville. I have never had time to visit, and I do not plan to stop. I usually come by here in off hours. Also, I have seen my share of aviation museums, including one of the best, the Museum of Flight in Seattle, next to Boeing’s south Seattle facilities.

Manzanita, Oregon

Manzanita is a lovely beach community in the Northwest corner of the Oregon, and just south of the more famous Canon Beach. I have come here many times over the decades and still love it. Here are some shots in the first half of November. I plan to go back again soon.

Fly fishing in Newberry Caldera, Oregon


I visited Oregon’s Newberry National Volcanic Monument last week. This was one of my favorite finds in a long time. The area includes one of many volcanic peaks in central Oregon, Newberry Caldera.  But on this one, there are two pristine clear, blue lakes (Paulina and East lakes), scenes of volcanic explosions, cool temperatures, and some of the prettiest camping spaces I can recall. Trout and one species of salmon are stocked in the lake, and some fish swim off into some pools that tumble off Paulina Lake into a creek that crashes down Paulina Falls. That’s where I captured this, no doubt, blissful fly fisherman, who bore a striking similarity to noted fly fisherman and current Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. Made me think of the Norman Maclean quote: “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” (Click on the photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Sherars Falls, Oregon, a historic Native fishing ground


For those who have never lived in the Northwest or fished, the significance of fishing to the region historically cannot be underestimated. Fishing is a unifying force among many diverse groups, a source of economic development for many small communities, and a cultural and historic legacy for Native Americans.

Fishing rights granted in treaties signed by the U.S. Government with tribes in Oregon and Washington remain in legal force. So-called “fishing wars” and “fish-ins” involved nonviolent and at times near-confrontational encounters among Native fishing activists seeking to reclaim fishing rights granted to them in treaties. These disputes attracted national attention. All of this culminated in the 1974 Boldt Decision that restored those rights in Washington State, and earlier with the Belloni Decision, in 1969, in Oregon. (Click on the Boldt Decision link to get a quick dose on this complex Northwest issue from a paper I wrote a few years back.)

Today, there are fewer fish, mostly salmon, because of decades of hydroelectric dam use on the Columbia River water system and development, but there is also shared management of the fisheries. Sherars Falls, on the Deschutes River, is a historic fishing area managed by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, as provided by treaty rights. I saw lots of tribal fishermen here this week, along with sports fishermen, who pay a daily fee to the tribe. Though developed, with a major railway, power lines, and roads, it is still wild, and the thrashing of Chinook caught on a line is one of the greatest things to experience. And this was really one of the most beautiful places I have visited in a while.

(Click on each photo for a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Taking detours and discovering hidden treasures in Oregon


During a short road trip to central Oregon the first week of June, I accidentally discovered this amazing fishing area on the Deschutes River, north of Maupin. It is called Sherars Falls. I camped here, and I was in heaven. The fishing area is managed by the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, and I’m fairly certain Native fishermen have been visiting these falls for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. This shot was taken shortly before 6 a.m. as the morning crew arrived to cast lines for spring Chinook. The night before, the guys did not stop fishing until about 10 p.m. I love salmon fishing and passion it brings out in anglers. And this was one of the prettiest fishing locations I have ever seen. (For a larger photo, click on the picture to open a separate picture page.)