Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tillamook Forest Center - Oregon

In my youthful trips to the beach, we would often pass through the “Tillamook Burn” area, but other than something about a big fire, I didn't know much about it. The actual event occurred before I was born, but was certainly part of community legend as I was growing up. This new interpretive center taught me quite a bit about the Tillamook Burn—actually, the Tillamook Burns—and the “six year curse.”

The first thing you'll notice as you approach the door is the forty foot lookout tower. Go ahead, climb up and take a look. In addition to the view (which, being surrounded by trees, is not that spectacular), you can catch a glimpse of fire lookout life.

Back at ground level, we lingered to look at the collecting pond, which supplies water to flush the toilets in the Center! As we got closer to the door, we were ushered in to see a 15 minute film about the Tillamook Burn; interesting and hopeful for rehabilitation of decimated forests. The Center is comparatively small and does not cover any subject extensively, but gives just a touch of the human and natural history of the area. The hands-on exhibits should keep the kids interested long enough to actually make it through the entire Center.

Another attraction of this museum, at least for us, was the access to several other activities. For a short stroll, take the gravel trail west of the center--a half mile loop through the forest with views of the Wilson River. If that wasn't enough for you, cross the 250 foot suspension bridge over the Wilson River to hike the Wilson River trail or walk to the Smith Homestead day use area. The day use area itself offers several short trail options and interpretive signs about the Smiths. We saw one of the pair of bald eagles from the Meadow Trail, perched in the bare top of a distant evergreen tree.

To enjoy this area for yourself, drive Highway 6 to milepost 22. Admission is free. Summer hours for the TFC (Memorial Day to Labor Day): daily, 10 am to 6 pm. Winter hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm. To learn more about the TFC and the surrounding areas, visit the well-done TFC website. If you intend to be outside for any length of time, be prepared for rain. This area gets a lot of it, as is amply demonstrated by a display inside the Center (look for the blue tubes).

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