Wacky? Yes. Wonderful? Definitely.
From the world’s largest porcine hairball to a whimsical amusement park, the Mid-Willamette Valley is filled with oddities. Whether you have driven by them a thousand times or never knew they existed, each of these one-of-a-kind attractions have a unique history behind them. Here are 10 wacky, but wonderful, places to visit:
1. Bobbie the Wonder Dog
It’s a stranger-than-fiction story that brought a dog from Silverton, Oregon, into the spotlight in 1924. The Scotch Collie, named Bobbie, was traveling in Indiana when he became separated from his family. Unable to locate Bobbie, the family returned home to Silverton. Six months later, Bobbie showed up on the family’s doorstep after walking 2,551 miles home. Today, the town of Silverton honors Bobbie with an annual pet parade, mural and a statue of the collie and his doghouse.
2. Eco Earth
A former “acid ball” is now an iconic piece of artwork in downtown Salem, Oregon. When the city purchased Riverfront Park from Boise Cascade in the 1980s, the company left behind a large, globe-shaped ball. The ball, a pressurized tank used to hold acids, then underwent a five-year transformation. Local artists and students created 86,000 tiles that reflect the world’s diversity on land and water to form the Eco Earth Globe.
3. Enchanted Forest
Crawl through Alice in Wonderland’s Rabbit Hole, step back in time to Old Europe or join in on an Irish jig at the Enchanted Forest. Located just south of Salem, this family-friendly amusement park is guaranteed to be unlike any other park you’ve been to. Open on select dates in the spring and summer, the park boasts shopping, rides, food and other attractions.
4. Erratic Rock State Natural Site
Transported to the Willamette Valley thousands of years ago, the state’s largest glacial erratic rock sits just outside of McMinnville, Oregon. The 90-ton rock floated more than 500 miles in an iceberg from the Northern Rocky Mountains during the Missoula floods. The second largest erratic in Oregon can be found in Rickreall, Oregon, at Left Coast Cellars Winery, which is home to the largest single collection of these rocks in the state.
5. Grave of the Wonder Cow
If you’ve ever attended the Oregon State Fair, you may have come across the grave of Vive La France No. 319616, also known as the Wonder Cow. In the 1900s, this cow held three world records for her milk, which was extremely rich in butter fat. As legend has it, the cow was buried in her owner’s front yard in Marion County. Her headstone has since been relocated to the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem. The memorial can be found next to the livestock pavilion.
6. Jawbone Flats
The Jawbone Flats mining camp, where miners processed lead, zinc, copper and silver, began in the early 1930s. A moderate, 3.1-mile trail in an old-growth forest takes hikers through the former mining community. Remnants of the town, including a steam engine, buildings and vehicles, can be spotted along the trail. Visitors can stay in one of four new cabins that have been built on the site.
An old gas pump sitting outside of Mecanico in historic Independence, Oregon, is a window into the pub’s past. In the 1950s, the building housed a gas station. Today, the establishment has been fully restored and transformed into a small pub that serves local brews. Now a popular local hangout, Mecanico has open-air seating in the summer, music, games and fire pits. The pub also pairs with IndePit Barbeque to offer “brick pit” barbeque made right outside of the building.
8. Mt. Angel Abbey Natural History Museum
Interested in the world’s largest porcine (hog) hairball? Look no further than the Mount Angel Abbey Natural History Museum. The small museum is home to what is believed to be the world’s largest porcine hairball. The museum also astounds visitors with two eight-legged taxidermy calves and other amazing artifacts. Admission to the museum is free.
9. The Spruce Goose
At the center of McMinnville’s Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum sits the Spruce Goose, one of the largest airplanes ever constructed. Made entirely of wood, the plane was constructed by shipbuilder Henry Kaiser as a way to move troops and materials across the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. On November 2, 1947, the massive aircraft made its first, and only, flight. The Spruce Goose flew just over one mile.
10. Waldo Park
Located in downtown Salem, Waldo Park is one of the smallest parks in the United States. The park, which is 12’ by 20’, consists of only one tree. Judge William Waldo purchased the giant sequoia from a traveling salesman and planted it on the corner of his property in 1872. Waldo eventually sold his land, but he required the tree be preserved. In 1936, the tree and grounds were dedicated as a city park.