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NW Life | Education | Greetings From The Northwest: Under The Weather

7 Educational Stops For Your Next Oregon Road Trip


The intersection of life in a mental hospital and the fiction of one of Oregon’s most celebrated authors. The remains of a beached shipwreck. A mysterious house in a potential vortex.

As our series Greetings From The Northwest goes “Back To School,” we’ve curated seven educational pit stops to check out next time you hit the road.

Portland To Astoria

World’s Smallest Park, Portland

Ifanyi Bell/OPB

Blink and you could miss it. Mill Ends Park was established when a hole, intended for a light pole, was overtaken by weeds and the post never arrived. In 1946, journalist Dick Fagan could see the unused plot from his office window at the Oregon Journal, and decided to plant flowers. It’s located in Portland on Naito Parkway and Southwest Taylor Street.

Wreck of Peter Iredale, Oregon Coast

The Peter Iredale was a four-masted steel bark — a type of sailing vessel — built in England in 1890. When attempting to navigate the entrance of the Columbia River in 1906, a combination of a strong wind and an equally strong current caused the ship to wreck on Clatsop Beach. Now a part of the Lewis and Clark State and National parks, it’s one of the most accessible shipwrecks of the Graveyard of the Pacific — a stretch of coastal beaches where many ships met their end. Located on the Oregon Coast near Astoria.

Salem To Medford

Museum of Mental Health, Salem

Forty years after the release of the film adaptation of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the Museum of Mental Health located at the Oregon State Hospital follows the transformation of the story. The exhibit focuses on the realities of filming about mental health while in a real hospital, and the kind of controversy it sparked in the community. Located inside the Oregon State Hospital.

The Vortex House, Gold Hill

Built in 1904, the house was originally as an office and later used for storage, but the actual vortex has long been an invisible force in the area both above and below ground. Native Americans called the area the “Forbidden Ground,” according to the site’s current managers. It’s a place where balls roll uphill and brooms stand on their own. Located in Gold Hill, north of Interstate 5.

Pendleton To Bend

Pendleton Underground Tours, Pendleton

Pendleton has come a long way since its gambling, Wild West days, but a nonprofit is preserving that piece of the city’s history. The group does more than tours too — visitors can also opt to stay in an old bordello. And while you’re touring the seedier side of history, guides promise to teach you about the importance of Chinese immigrants in founding the West. Located in downtown Pendleton.

Kam Wah Chung

Oregon Exprience produced a documentary on Kam Wah Chung in 2010.

Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site, John Day

What was once a Chinese medical clinic, a general store and community center, now serves as a preserved piece of history. The Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site was originally built in the 1870s. It was home to two Chinese immigrants: Ing “Doc” Hay, who practiced herbal medicine, and Lung On, who worked in the general store. It was uninhabited for decades. Today, it’s a national historic landmark. Located just off U.S. Highway 26 in John Day.

Lava River Cave, Bend

Discovered in 1889 and known for Oregon’s longest uncollapsed lava tube. Visitors can explore 6,000 feet that formed when fluid pahoehoe basalt flowed out of a volcano and formed a roof over the flow as it started to cool. When the eruption stopped, the lava continued to move out, forming the cave. Located 12 miles south of Bend on Highway 97.

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