5 state parks trees to visit on National Love a Tree Day

The Big Pine at LaPine State Park was the grandaddy of all Ponderosa pines until the top snapped off, dropping it to No. 2.

May 16 is National Love a Tree Day, and Oregon is one of the best places on the planet to celebrate our leafy friends. And while there’s nothing wrong with running to the first tree you see and giving it a bear hug, there are five trees in Oregon State Parks that we think are worth a visit today (or any day, really).

Octopus Tree, Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint 
It’s easy to see why this 250-year-old Sitka spruce got its name, but theories vary as to why it grew into such an odd shape. Natural events? Human intervention? Maybe the tree just got bored? We’ll probably never know. We do know that the Octopus Tree was designated an Oregon Heritage Tree in 2009, and is a stalwart feature of Cape Meares.

Moon Tree, State Capitol State Park
Back in the early 1970s, taking unusual things to the moon was all the rage. During the Apollo 14 mission in 1971, astronauts took 500 tree seeds with them for a trip around the moon. Upon returning, the seeds were given to forestry services around the country. Six seeds ended up in Oregon and one was planted at State Capitol State Park in 1976. That Douglas-fir is still there today, offering ample shade park visitors.

“Big Tree” Ponderosa Pine, LaPine State Park
This massive Ponderosa pine is the biggest of its species ever recorded, with a nearly 29-foot circumference. It was the tallest too (162 feet) but unfortunately some inclement weather took a bit too much off the top and knocked it down to the No. 2 spot. Nevertheless, the tree is an impressive sight and draws thousands of Pinus ponderosa enthusiasts to LaPine each year.

Black Cottonwood Tree, Willamette Mission State Park
At 158 feet, this Populus trichocarpa is the largest of its species in the United States. This might be frightening news to those that suffer from a cottonwood allergy, but this gentle giant means no harm. The tree has been a  Willamette Valley resident for over 250 years and is easy to hike to on a warm spring afternoon.

Pacific Yew Tree, Milo McIver State Park
Rounding off the list is the largest Pacific Yew tree in Oregon and second largest in the United States. The impressive yew is a short hike along the Dog Creek Trail near the Riverside Day-use area. The tree’s age is unknown (Pacific Yews grow very, very slowly) but it’s probably older than most of its human visitors.

Follow the park web page links above to find driving directions to each park.

Silver Falls State Park hosts bird and wildflower festival May 12-13

The 40th Annual Silver Falls State Park Birding and Wildflower Festival is set for Mother’s Day Weekend, May 12-13, 2018. Join local experts for guided wildflower and birding walks, live raptor presentations, nature sketching classes, and Mother’s Day crafts. Visit the South Falls Lodge to see an extensive native plant display and shop for native plants at our native plant sale at the South Falls Nature Store.

Special Founders’ Day at Champoeg May 5

Champoeg State Heritage Area will host living history actors, a replica historic townsite and other family friendly activities for the annual Founders’ Day celebration Saturday, May 5. This year marks the 175th anniversary of the 1843 vote held in Champoeg that established the first provisional government west of the Mississippi River. The free event runs 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

“That vote began Oregon’s journey to statehood,” said Dan Klug, interpretive ranger at Champoeg State Heritage Area. “Founder’s Day celebrates that achievement and is great way for the family to learn more about the history of our state.”

Join us for a reenacted fur trappers’ camp, replica historic townsite with building facades, tradesmen demonstrating 19th-century techniques and a post office with souvenir post cards. A 1 p.m. ceremony to honor the original May 1843 voters will feature distinguished speakers, a mock vote and a rifle salute. The afternoon concludes with a live stagecoach run delivering the souvenir post cards to the St. Paul post office.

Founders’ Day celebrates a vote held in Champoeg by local settlers on May 2, 1843. A large group gathered that day to decide the future of the Oregon territory. After a spirited debate, a slim majority voted “aye” to form Oregon’s first provisional government, laying the groundwork for Oregon’s statehood in 1859. Founders’ Day has been held annually at Champoeg since 1901.

Event parking is free. Light refreshments will be available after the 1 p.m. ceremony. For more information, call 503-678-1251.