Visit the Geisel Monument archaeological excavation

Open July 10 and July 24—10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Geisel Monument Heritage Site is a small wayside on the southern Oregon coast and a memorial to a settler family swept up in the Rogue River Wars of the mid-1800s.

Next month, Southern Oregon University (SOU) and the SOU Laboratory of Anthropology (SOULA) will hold an archaeological field school at the site as part of their research into the era. The public can tour the area and excavation work, see some of the latest finds from the project and learn more about local history. The project is funded in part by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

The scene in 1856


Students conduct preliminary work at Geisel Monument State Heritage Site in preparation for the summer field school.

Ongoing tension in the interior Rogue River Valley mounted as the influx of settlers, miners and soldiers clashed with the traditional life of Native American people living in the area. On February 22, 1856, the coastal Tututni Native American people struck settlements from Port Orford south toward the California border. Many died that night, including John Geisel and his three sons who were killed in their home north of present day Gold Beach. John’s wife and their two daughters were taken captive.

The surviving settlers sought safety at Miner’s Fort at the mouth of Rogue River and worked for the release of the Geisels. A Native American woman named Betsey and her husband, Charles Brown, served as intermediaries and translators in the negotiations. The family was released after several weeks.

More violence struck at the Geisel homestead later that year, after war was over. While being escorted by government agents to the newly established Coast Indian Reservation, 19 Native American people were killed near the homestead.

John Geisel and his sons are buried at the heritage site, as well as his wife, who died in 1899.

SOULA, working with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), the Bureau of Land Management, and western Oregon’s Native American Tribes have investigated a number of Rogue River War sites in recent years; the 1852 wreck of the schooner Captain Lincoln in Coos Bay, the remains of the U.S. Army’s Fort Lane near Central Point, and the site of the Battle of Hungry Hill that took place in late October, 1855.

Geisel Cemetery

The Geisel Family Cemetery

Learn More

A free public lecture series will be held in July each Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Curry County Fairgrounds.

July 6: Mark Tveskov, Southern Oregon University. “The Archaeology of the Rogue River War.”

July 13: Ben Truwe, Southern Oregon Historical Society. “Digging in the Archives: The documentary record of Oregon’s Early Years.”            

July 20: Robert Kentta, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. Siletz Tribal History.

July 27: Patricia Whereat Phillips. Linguist and researcher for the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians. “Ethnobotany of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians.”

Celebrate 100 years of the Historic Columbia River Highway

Events this summer


More than 700,000 visitors each year stop at the iconic Vista House at Crown Point along the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Hailed “King of Roads,” Historic Route 30 was officially dedicated on June 7, 1916, with a dazzling affair that drew the attention of the nation and the world. This summer, we invite you to explore and rediscover the historic highway and the beautiful Columbia River Gorge it traverses. Take a drive, hike or bike ride. View magnificent waterfalls and vistas and stop by the communities along the way–many are hosting  events to celebrate the centennial. Here’s our guide to four new experiences you can have in the Gorge this summer.

1. Music in the Gorge. This summer brings opportunity to attend some not-so-traditional concerts in some unexpected venues.

  • Sing-along, play along, or just sit back and enjoy the Song Circles at Vista House at Crown Point State Scenic Corridor July 22, Aug. 26 and Sept. 23. Led by musicians from the Portland Folk Music society, all events are family-friendly, but kids definitely won’t want to miss the special children’s sing-along on Aug. 26.
  • Enjoy a live classical piano performance at Vista House and Oneonta Tunnel, part of the “In a Landscape” multimedia piano project. Hunter Noack will  piano music interspersed with text written and catalogued by Roosevelt’s Federal Writers Project using the latest wireless headphone technology. Shows are at 7 p.m. Aug. 20 at Vista House and 7 p.m. Aug. 24 at Oneonta Tunnel.

2. Learn about the history of the highway. You won’t want to miss these special exhibits that celebrate the centennial.

  • King of Roads, Troutdale Historic Society Museum, Troutdale. The exhibit features restored photographs and stories of the people who made the building of the highway possible.
  • Sam Hill and the Columbia River Highway, Maryhill Museum of Art, Goldendale, Wash. The Sam Hill Room will have a temporary exhibit with black and white prints showing both construction photos of the highway and early scenic views of the Columbia River Gorge. Most of the images are taken from Sam Hill’s personal photo collection.
  • A Poem in Stone – Celebrating the Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon State Library, Salem.The exhibit tells the story of transportation through the Columbia River Gorge, focusing on the construction, early history and restoration of the Columbia River Highway. Includes books and reports on the Highway, early travel brochures, photographs, postcards and maps.

3.  Explore the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. A new 1.3-mile segment west of Hood River connecting the Lindsay Creek and Starvation Creek trailheads opens Sept. 24. Bring your bikes or your walking shoes—this section is closed to cars. You won’t want to miss traversing the other sections of the state trail, either.

  • 6.5 miles between the John B. Yeon State Scenic Corridor and Cascade Locks Trailhead. You can also access this section from the Toothrock Trailhead and Eagle Creek Campground.
  • 1 mile between Starvation Creek Trailhead and Viento State Park
  • 5-mile Twin Tunnels Section between Hood River and Mosier. The restored tunnels were filled with rock when I-84 opened. Stop by the Twin Tunnels Visitor Station at Senator Mark O. Hatfield West Trailhead in Hood River for the full story.

4.  Jump on the new Columbia Gorge Express. Hunt for views instead of parking spaces when you ride to Multnomah Falls on the Columbia Gorge Express, a shuttle service from Portland and Rooster Rock State Park. Take the shuttle for free from Rooster Rock or for $5 round-trip from Gateway Transit Center. With buses departing every 15-30 minutes daily, this is a convenient and relaxing way to see one of the top tourist attractions in Oregon.

Free camping and fishing–make it happen

Celebrate Your Parks on State Parks Day, June 4, 20162016-State-Parks-Day

Camping is free the night of June 4 in traditional sites—full hookup (sewer, electricity and water), electrical hookup (electricity and water), and tent sites.  Parking is free June 4-5 at the 26 parks that charge a day-use parking fee.

Visitors will also be able to fish, crab and clam without a license June 4-5 for Oregon’s Free Fishing Weekend, hosted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). ODFW will offer the gear, bait and instructions at parks around the state, including Benson State Recreation Area in the Columbia River Gorge and Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park and Fort Stevens State Park on the coast.

Campsite reservations may be made by calling 800-452-5687 before 5 p.m. June 3. Or, reserve online at While the campsite rental is free, an $8 nonrefundable reservation fee still applies. Of the 52 state park campgrounds, 42 take reservations.

Parks throughout the state will host activities including guided hikes—Saturday, June 4 is also National Trails Day—plus open houses, tours, special barbecues and guest appearances by J.R. Beaver, Oregon State Parks mascot.

  • Silver Falls State Park east of Salem will have free refreshments, a guided waterfall tour and its annual Foot Race Challenge, with a 5K, 6-mile and kids’ race.
  • Stub Stewart State Park west of Portland will host a volunteer work party in the morning, followed by free lunch at Hilltop Day-use Area, a guided bike ride, scavenger hunt, skins and skulls display and more.
  • See a fur trappers’ encampment at Champoeg State Heritage Area. Walk among the tents and work stations, ask questions of the interpreters and watch demonstrations of trapping, shooting, cooking and packing for the fur trade.