Oregon is not a monolith. It's full of wonder. It's full of beauty. It's full of ... odd things, which of course are wonderful and beautiful in their own right. 

From an abandoned early-20th-century shipwreck to painted dinosaurs to natural wonders, seek out these oddities and roadside attractions on your next road trip or outdoor adventure—or just your next trip downtown or venture into Forest Park. Don't forget your camera.  

Prehistoric Gardens, Port Orford

Tucked amid the redwoods and giant ferns off 101 between Port Orford and Gold Beach, the painted concrete dinosaurs of the Prehistoric Gardens are to Jurassic Park what a coloring book is to a Roblox game. The kitschy stop gets frequent boosts from TV appearances on the Discovery Channel and shows like Fox Business Network’s Strange Inheritance, and its third-generation owner has said the safely distanced outdoor destination has seen plenty of traffic in the pandemic. —Margaret Seiler

 

Municipal Elevator, Oregon City

Just 12 miles south of Portland, Oregon City boasts one of the only vertical streets in North America. How do you drive down this vertical street, you ask. You don’t. You take Oregon City’s saucer-shaped Municipal Elevator, built in 1955, up and down it. (Unfortunately this elevator does not go sideways, slantways, longways, or backways.) —Gabriel Granillo

 

Enchanted Forest, Turner

More than a half-century ago, Roger Tofte spent $4,000 on 20 acres in the Willamette Valley to build a Storybook Trail. From this relatively meager outlay, one of the state’s greatest family attractions and the trippiest, homemade theme park you never imagined was born: the Enchanted Forest. Since then, millions have entered Tofte’s Rabbit Hole, slid down the witch’s hair, faced their fears inside the Seven Dwarves Mine, and been duly enchanted by this wild landscape of mismatched attractions. (Closed for the season until March 18.) —Fiona McCann

 

Mill Ends Park, Portland 

This two-foot-diameter traffic island at the intersection of SW Naito and Taylor holds the Guinness record for world’s smallest park and is a favorite leisure spot of Thumbelina, Arrietty, the Borrowers, the Northwest’s many immigrants from Lilliput, and some of Rick Moranis’s lost children. OK, so we’re lying about those visitors, but its park status does stem from a series of columns in the Oregon Journal—writer Dick Fagan could see the unused utility pole hole from his office windows and liked to imagine it was a leprechaun colony. —MS

 

Peter Iredale Wreckage, Warrenton

In October 1906, this British barque ran ashore so hard that three of the ship’s masts broke off. Visitors now can walk up to the wreckage during low tide. Nearby ghost town Fort Stevens, a former military installation established during the Civil War, is also worth a visit. —GG

 

The Octopus Tree, Cape Meares 

While a windstorm took out the country’s tallest Sitka spruce, near Seaside, in 2007 (RIP), the Oregon Coast is still home to what might be the weirdest Sitka spruce. Called the Octopus Tree (among many other nicknames), this multitrunk wonder at Cape Meares State Scenic Area looks like a stationary Whomping Willow or a giant’s whisk. —MS

 

The Shoe Tree, Mitchell

Part novelties, part memorials, there are plenty of shoe trees around the state—including a more picturesque one along US 97 near Redmond—but the sad, ghostly, splitting, fading Mitchell Shoe Tree on the north side of US 26 near the John Day Fossil Beds is Oregon’s OG, decorated by hundreds of shoes and a sign that declares them all just a “bunch of old souls hanging around.” —MS

 

Weather Machine, Portland  

Before the days of iPhone weather apps, there was the Weather Machine, an often overlooked work of public art built in 1988 in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Every day at noon, recorded trumpet music fills the air along with mist and flashing lights, and out of what looks like a regular ol’ street lamp, one of three sculptures emerges to predict the weather for the next 24 hours—a sun for clear skies, a heron for cloudy and rainy weather, and a dragon for gnarly storms. —Katherine Chew Hamilton

Thor’s Well, Yachats

Add a quick trip to this stunning sinkhole off Cape Perpetua next time you’re winter storm chasing in Yachats. Though not bottomless (you won’t find Valhalla on the other side), you’ll still want to keep your distance, as the sinkhole produces massively cool waves. Fun to look at, fun to show off on Instagram, but not fun to fall into. (We imagine.) —GG

 

Witch’s Castle, Portland

What’s the ghostly story behind this eerie, moss- and graffiti-covered stone building about three-quarters of a mile into Lower Macleay Trail in Forest Park? It’s actually the remnants of a bathroom commissioned in 1929. It was damaged by a storm and abandoned in 1962. These days, it’s one of the most Instagrammed spots in the park. Beware of possible Moaning Myrtle wannabes and late-night high school partiers. —KCH

Share