Blink and you just might miss it: On I-5 North after Salem, between mile markers 259 and 260, is a wide green sign proclaiming, “45th Parallel Halfway Between the Equator and North Pole.” It’s one of some half-dozen signposts scattered across Oregon identifying this noteworthy geography — a circle of latitude shared with iconic places around the world.
In Japan the 45th parallel runs through Hokkaidō, while in France it passes just north of Bordeaux. You’ll find the line separates much of Montana and Wyoming as well as defines part of the international border between Quebec, Canada, and New York and Vermont.
Here in Oregon the 45th parallel crosses some pretty key locations too. Off Highway 101, the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, just north of Lincoln City is a modest green 45th parallel sign hidden among blackberry bushes — close enough to the town’s 7 miles of sandy coastline that you can smell the saltwater. A brick-lined monument notes the line in Keizer, where River Road intersects with Sandy Drive, less than 2 miles from Keizer Rapids Park and the Willamette River Water Trail, plus a short drive to the thematic Parallel 45 Brewing in Independence.
Another green sign stands proudly at the intersection of Adams and Water streets in Silverton, a town along the Silver Falls Tour Route that is best known for vibrant gardens and a trail of 10 waterfalls. A three-hour drive east, outside the ghost town of Shaniko and its weathered Old West buildings, is another green marker, this time on Highway 97, part of the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway.
Along the John Day Wild and Scenic River, a marker rests near a boat launch north of the community of Dale. Some hundred miles east, two 45th parallel signs grace roads near North Powder and Baker City — on US-30 and I-84 — making for easy detours en route to the Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway or the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.
Compare Oregon’s 45th Parallel to Others Around the World
Special climates come with the territory of being on the 45th parallel. Across the globe, other cities on this latitude share similarities with their counterparts in Oregon. While you might not be able to visit all the famous locations on the 45th parallel, you can find some comparisons here in Oregon. For example:
- Instead of flying to Bordeaux, France, for red wine you can sip the Willamette Valley’s signature pinot noir — dozens of scenic vineyards are near Salem.
- Skip the slopes of Hokkaidō, Japan, for the snowy alpine and backcountry trails of Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort, a friendly and uncrowded ski area in North Powder.
- The shellfish of Nova Scotia, Canada, can take a backseat for the savory Dungeness crab of the Oregon Coast, where you can catch dinner from Lincoln City’s Siletz Bay.
- Rather than trekking the Alps near Piedmont, Italy, gain some altitude at the Elkhorn Mountains, home to thrilling mountain-bike trails and panoramic views of Baker Valley.
- Forgo the journey to Mongolia’s Gobi Desert for a road trip to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America.
Plan Your Trip
Whether you’re seeking the 45th parallel in Oregon for a once-in-a-lifetime photo for your 45th birthday (like my mother-in-law did) or simply want to mentally note the highway sign, be sure to travel safely. Check road conditions at TripCheck.com before leaving home, and park only in secure places. Be mindful of your surroundings at all times — your safety is more important than a photo op. Of course, the best way to experience the 45th parallel is to explore nearby towns and support local businesses.