Park Heritage Notes–Who was Smith Rock State Park’s famous centerpiece named for? (2010)
After 50 years, the naming of Smith Rock is still a matter of controversy.
Was it a former Linn County sheriff and state legislator John Smith, who reportedly discovered the Crooked River Canyon formations in 1867? He had been traveling through the area while working for the Warm Springs Indian Agency.
Or, was it Pvt. Voke Smith of the U.S. Cavalry? Pvt. Smith fell to his death there in 1863 during a skirmish between his unit and the Northern Paiutes led by Chief Paulina.
The origin of its name notwithstanding, the park still has a golden anniversary to celebrate this year. The first 304 acres of the 651-acre park were purchased in 1960. Since then, it has become a premier destination for rock climbers from throughout the world. Birders also are now frequent visitors hoping to see its resident birds of prey.