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Oregon Wonders

Oregon’s Natural Wonders

The Oregonian – July 5, 2006

Oregon is awash in natural wonders − the biggest, smallest, deepest, oldest, tallest, shortest of geographic features as well as things that fall from the sky.

Some we know to be true, others may well be mythic. Here, we share a few favorites and credit the information without accounting for the measurement methods employed in achieving such bragging rights:

  • Most Sand  Oregon Dunes, the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America, between Florence and Coos Bay, about 40 miles long.  Source:  U.S. Forest Service.
  • Most Depth  Crater Lake is the nation’s deepest lake and the seventh deepest in the world. Its floor runs to 1,943 feet below the surface.  Source:  U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Still More Depth  Hell’s Canyon, in extreme northeastern Oregon, is the deepest river gorge in North America. Its east rim looms about 8,000 feet over the Snake River. This compares to the puny Grand Canyon, where the North Rim rises a mere 6,000 feet above the Colorado River.  Source: U.S. Forest Service.
  • Most Clarity  Crater Lake is the world’s clearest natural body of water.  Source:  Bruce R. Hargreaves, a Lehigh University environmental scientist.
  • Biggest Thing from the Sky  The 151/2 ton Willamette Meteorite, which was found in a field south of Portland in 1902, is the largest meteorite ever found in the United States.  Source: American Museum of Natural History.
  • Most-climbed Glaciated Peak in North America  Mount Hood, topping 11,237. From the parking lot at Timberline Lodge, the summit seems just a hop, skip and jump away. It’s actually farther. A lot farther. About 10,000 climbers a year register to take the summit.  Source:  Portland Mountain Rescue.
  • Largest Pinniped Hotel  Sea Lion Caves, a privately owned tourist attraction, claims to be the largest ocean cave in the world, its ceiling towering as high as a 12-story building and extending 300 feet into the cliff face. Situated 11 miles north of Florence.  Source: Sea Lion Caves.
  • Least Likely Site for a Hydroelectric Dam  The D River, which flows 120 feet from Devils Lake to the Pacific, is the world’s shortest river.  Source: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
  • Most Challenging Anchorage for Supertankers  Depoe Bay, at 6 acres, is the world’s smallest natural navigable harbor.  Source: Oregon Coast Visitors Association.

Oregon Dunes Natural Recreation Area

Crater Lake
National Park

Willamette Meteorite

Hell’s Canyon

D River

Oregon Man-made Wonders

  • Oldest Prada Ancestor  The world’s oldest sandals, made of sagebrush bark, were found at Fort Rock Cave in Central Oregon in 1938 by archaeologist Luther Cressman. The ancient footwear are 10,000 years old. You can see them at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon in Eugene.  Source:  University of Oregon.
  • Biggest Remodeling Headache  The Newberry Crater contains the oldest house ever found in western North America. University of Oregon archaeologists found the 9,500-year-old house near Paulina Lake in the 1990s.  Source: University of Oregon.
  • Smallest Gathering Spot for a Family Reunion  Mill Ends Park, 24 inches in diameter, is the world’s smallest place to get away from it all in an urban setting. Used mainly by leprechauns.  Source: Portland Parks and Recreation.