Sure, this state is beautiful. But part of what makes Oregon, well, Oregon are the people.
In 2013 Slater Smith of The Weather Machine debuted his band’s music video for “Back O’er Oregon,” which was shot in 185 Oregon State Parks. Two summers later Smith launched Oregon Road Sessions, a collection of music videos featuring local bands playing in notable Oregon State Parks. The collaborations continue in 2016 with a new music video released every week starting in June.
Creativity flows through our towns and out of our borders. Watch this year’s Oregon Road Sessions and you’ll understand. Talented Pacific Northwest musicians turned historic Oregon State Parks into performances stages, playing their biggest hits in some pretty unique places. From the newest Oregon State Park to the oldest water-powered mill in the state and an abandoned ghost town’s church, these are venues most bands would never even dream of playing. Join us as we tour Oregon’s prized locations with a special soundtrack to guide the journey.
You’ll never look at these parks the same way.
Mimicking Birds at Thompson’s Mills
As the oldest water-powered mill in the state, Thompson’s Mills State Heritage Site illustrates the power and resiliency of Oregon’s rural industries. Found north of Brownsville on the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway Route, the 1863 Mill and its grounds are open daily for free guided tours.
The 20-acre site was originally built in Boston, a promising town that disappeared after a railroad bypassed it by two miles.
Water from the Calapooia River continues to run the 150-year-old mill. When Oregon Parks and Recreation Department purchased Thompson’s Mills in 2004, it also acquired some of the oldest intact water rights in Oregon, which predate statehood.
Appropriately, Mimicking Birds performs “Water Under Burned Bridges” in the historic mill.
Hey Marseilles at Golden State Heritage Site
Oregon has its fair share of ghost towns, and the Golden State Heritage Site stands out. Located along Coyote Creek in Southern Oregon, Golden is former site of a 19th century gold mining town. Residents abandoned Golden when the mining boom ended. Today just four buildings are still standing: a church, a home, a shed and the town’s former post office and store.
The 5.5-acre Golden State Heritage Site is Oregon’s most undisturbed turn-of-the-century rural mining settlements and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Hey Marseilles brings life to the quiet ghost town with a performance of “Eyes on You” in the old Golden Community Church. Built in 1892, the church’s detailed craftsmanship suggests Golden’s residents had intended to stay for a long time.
Portland Cello Project at Bridal Veil Falls
One of the most loved waterfalls in Oregon, Bridal Veil Falls drains from Larch Mountain into Bridal Veil Creek with a spectacular 92-foot drop. At times, the two cascades of whitewater flow at up to 50 feet wide. It’s easy to see how the tall waterfall evokes an image of its namesake, a bride’s veil.
Bridal Veil Falls State Scenic Viewpoint, located off the Historic Columbia River Scenic Highway, features two trails to the falls: one to the bottom of the waterfall and another interpretive trail with signs describing native wild plants along the cliffs.
Under the majestic Bridal Veil Falls, Portland Cello Project plays “Shard” on the ground-level viewing platform. The musicians’ passionate performance perfectly complements the powerful rush of these falls.
Sama Dams at Saddle Mountain
At an elevation of 3,288 feet, Saddle Mountain is the tallest mountain in Clatsop County and part of the Oregon Coast Range. The mountain formed 15 million years ago when lava flowing from the Columbia River basalt encountered cool ocean waters.
Today the Saddle Mountain State Natural Area is enjoyed by hikers, campers and picnickers in search of solitude. Reaching the double-peaked summit — which is shaped like a saddle — means traversing a challenging yet popular trail that rises 1,640 feet in elevation over 2.5 miles. Ask anyone who’s finished the hike: the steep climb is well worth its breathtaking panoramic views.
At the base of Saddle Mountain is a dense forest of Sitka spruce and Douglas fir. “My Ears Are Ringing” by Sama Dams resounds between the trees and the rough terrain towering above.
Haley Heyndrickx at Mosier Twin Tunnels
Built in 1921, the Mosier Twin Tunnels serve as a popular landmark off the Historic Columbia River Highway, America’s first scenic highway and a National Historic Landmark. This 4.6-mile section of the original highway is carved out of the Columbia River Gorge’s basalt walls and sits between the distinct climate zones of Eastern Oregon and the Hood/Gorge region.
From 1953 to 1995, the Mosier Twin Tunnels were closed and covered with rubble. They were rebuilt as part of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Today the tunnels are closed to motorized vehicles and reserved for cyclists and pedestrians.
Singer Haley Heynderickx, accompanied with Elena Mendoza of Y La Bamba and Typhoon‘s Alex Fitch, demonstrates the tunnels’ powerful acoustics with her emotional song “Sane.” The trio performs into an arched tunnel, letting the raw sound echo along the historic hardwearing walls.
Lost Lander at Cottonwood Canyon
Spanning more than 8,000 acres on the lower John Day River, Cottonwood Canyon State Park is the second largest state park in Oregon — and, established in 2013, it’s also the newest. Located halfway between The Dalles and Fossil, Cottonwood Canyon has the quintessential Eastern Oregon landscape: rugged vertical cliffs, yellow wheat fields, aged barns, dusty back country roads and more open land than your eyes can see.
Recreationists come to Cottonwood Canyon to raft, canoe, horseback ride, bike or hike. Anglers seek out steelhead, catfish, carp and smallmouth bass. The Lone Tree Campground offers 21 primitive campsites to rest feet, collect thoughts and stare at an endless sky of stars.
At the park’s entrance is the original 1930’s barn and windmill of the Murtha family ranch. Lost Lander performs “Trailer Tracks” inside the barn, surrounded by relics of the old ranch.
You can almost smell the sagebrush.
The Weather Machine at Peter Skene Ogden State Park
Perched at the top of Crooked River Gorge’s vertical basalt cliffs, the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint offers dramatic vistas of the Central Oregon canyon and winding river. Three historic bridges are also in sight: the Crooked River Railroad Bridge, the Crooked River High Bridge and the Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge.
Bordering Deschutes and Jefferson counties off U.S. Route 97, the park is named after Peter Skene Ogden, who led Hudson Bay Company on the first recorded journey into Central Oregon in 1825. Today it’s a popular spot for picnickers, bird watchers and those looking for picturesque views.
Under the shadow of the lofty railroad bridge, The Weather Machine plays “Wild West Coast” at Peter Skene Ogden State Park. The dream-like song echos into the crevices of the canyon, a place still very much wild.
Big Haunt at Cape Meares Lighthouse
Though at just 38 feet tall Cape Meares is the shortest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast, it is also one of the most popular. The stunning lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors also flock to the 1890 lighthouse for its impressive vantage of the Pacific Ocean and nesting sea bird colonies.
Located south of Tillamook Bay in Cape Lookout State Park, Cape Meares is a main attraction on the Three Capes Scenic Loop. An unique Sitka spruce tree nicknamed “Octopus Tree” gets extra attention for its odd-shaped figure.
Inside the lighthouse is an iconic red Fresnel lens. The members of Big Haunt squeeze into the close quarters to play “Blood on the Breeze,” their minimalist melodies traveling like a salty ocean breeze.
Holiday Friends at Fort Stevens State Park
A former coastal defense fort at the mouth of the Columbia River active from the Civil War to World War II, Fort Stevens State Park still shows remnants of its military past. Visitors can take a free underground tour of rare turn-of-the-century artillery gun batteries, the fort’s old jail and an extensive military museum.
Families enjoy stopping at Fort Stevens State Park for a glimpse of the beached wreck of Peter Iredale, which ran aground on Clatsop Spit in 1906. But in addition to exciting historical pieces, Fort Stevens is a 4,300-acre park that offers camping, freshwater lake swimming and hiking trails.
Holiday Friends plays “Night Vision Mode” outside the famous Fort Stevens. The peppy song is perfect for a summer day at the Oregon Coast, while grounded enough to take on a serious landmark like Fort Stevens.
Radiation City in Vista House at Crown Point
Built between 1916-1918 as a scenic wayside off the Historic Columbia River Highway, Vista House at Crown Point serves as an important Oregon landmark. But this is no typical roadside stop. Vista House is a stunning rotunda with a green ceramic tile roof, marble-finish interior, limestone exterior and colored glass windows that shine at sunset. It towers 733 above the Columbia River with virtually exclusive views of the Columbia River Gorge from Crown Point.
A restoration in 2005 made Vista House accessible to handicapped, as well as debuted interpretive displays, an espresso bar and a gift shop. Recognized on the National Register of Historic Places, Vista House continues to wow new generations of visitors.
Radiation City plays “Summer Rain” in Vista House, taking advantage of the naturally reverberant building’s strong acoustics. Clap along or watch in awe; a visit to the Vista House is always a good idea.
Larry and His Flask at Willamette Mission State Park
Nestled in the heart of the Willamette Valley, just eight miles north of Salem, Willamette Mission State Park is scenic as much as it’s historical. Attracting hikers, boaters and picnickers, the park features 1,600 acres of woodlands, wetlands, meadows, a filbert grove and working farmland.
Noted on the National Register of Historic Places, the park is the site of the former Willamette Mission, established in 1834 as one of the first American settlements in the Oregon Territory. Today the Mission’s original building is a ghost structure visible from the riverside loop. Visitors can still take a ride on the Wheatland Ferry, which was the first to carry a wagon and ox across the Willamette River in 1844.
On the bank of Mission Lake is what’s believed to be the nation’s largest black cottonwood tree, roughly 250 years old. Larry and His Flask plays “Pandemonium” under the towering cottonwood, jamming loud enough to wake up the massive tree.
Watch for new releases in the 2016 Oregon Road Sessions, sponsored by OPB, Oregon State Parks, Oregon Governor’s Office of Film & Television and Travel Oregon.