Oregon State Parks Essay: Central Oregon

Rock formation in a ring about 4,460 feet in diameter, standing about 200 feet above surrounding plain in the high desert.
Fort Rock, in the desert of northern Lake County,  has both cultural and geological significance. (Oregon State Archives scenic photo)
​​​ ​​​​​​​
Oregon’s State Parks, like all of Oregon, sit on the homelands of Native peoples, and many of the parks invite visitors to appreciate and learn about how different Native peoples thrived in diverse landscapes. Fort Rock State Natural Area, an ancient volcanic crater, sprawls in the high desert of south central Oregon. From a distance it looks like a military fort. Ancestors of the Klamath and Northern Paiute people used this site, leaving behind sandals made of sagebrush bark; some of those sandals date to almost 11,000 years old, making them the oldest footwear in the world.

Another example of the long presence and deep complexity of Native cultures can be seen at The Cove Palisades State Park, near Madras. The Crooked River Petroglyph, an 80-ton sandstone boulder, is covered with intricate symbols and drawings, etched into the rock by unknown tribes. When the Round Butte Dam was completed in 1965 creating Lake Billy Chinook reservoir, it looked like the reservoir’s water would submerge the petroglyph. Instead, park staff moved the boulder to higher ground, where its message endures and waits to be decoded.​

Next: Eastern Oregon >