Celebrating 100 Years of Oregon State Parks

This is an exhibit called “A Century of Wonder: 100 Years of Oregon State Parks”. The jaw-dropping collection of 30 photos captures the soul of the entire state.

PORTLAND, Oregon – A big birthday party is underway and anyone who enjoys camping or playing in an Oregon state park is invited to join in the fun. We recently caught up with a famous photographer whose birthday present for all Oregonians is not to be missed.

Peter Marbach prides himself on his search and capture method of finding the best light in the field.

On a recent trip to Bald Peak in Washington County, he took full advantage of the sweeping views of the Tualatin Valley from atop the quiet little state park.

“You must be a fanatic about this! If you find a place you like, you have to be ready to come back again and again and be ready to get up at 12:30 a.m. to get the perfect shot. It’s the simple approach the way I do it,” Marbach said.

It sounds simple enough but turned out to be much more complex for the long-time landscape photographer. For more than two years, his shots crossed the seasons and covered one hundred thousand acres of Oregon.

The famed landscape photographer recently wrapped his birthday present for all of us as Oregon State Parks celebrates 100 years.

His exhibit features a stunning collection of 30 photos that capture the soul of the entire state – it’s an exhibit called “A Century of Wonders: 100 Years of Oregon State Parks” featured at the Oregon Historical Society.

“It was a blessing to be in this project for me to be out there, to be out there! To be on the road…as much as possible. It was wonderful!” Marbach said.

Wonder has always been easy to find for Oregonians looking to travel and get away from it all.

But at first, that wasn’t exactly the case. You see, early state parks – like Sarah Helmick SP, established in 1922, were designed for picnics, a rest area, and then visitors would return home.

But in the 1950s, a new generation eager to explore Oregon took to their homes on the road.

“Oregon’s state park system was one of the first camping opportunities that wasn’t just for that adventurer who had skills, being able to pitch a tent, cook over a fire and all that. that,” said OPRD spokesman Chris Havel. “From the start, there were spaces for recreational vehicles, mainly trailers, and motorhomes as well. It was meant to be the most accessible outdoor recreation experience Oregon had to offer.

Today, Oregon State Parks are more popular than ever! Places like Silver Falls State Park attract over a million users a year. The same goes for remote parks like Wallowa Lake State Park and Smith Rock State Park.

Last year, more than 3 million campers spent a night at an Oregon state park.

“Connecting to a place (through a state park trail or a campground) is how we learn the importance of caring for them,” Havel added. “The more we expose ourselves to the full spectrum of what Oregon is, the more we tend to take care of it.”

Marbach said the two-year project was a blessing that has taken him to more than 100 state parks and to every corner of the state.

Traveling hasn’t been easy during a statewide pandemic and summer fire seasons that have lit up the skies and swept smoke across the countryside.

“A lot of parks were closed and I had to think about my own safety,” Marbach noted. “Extreme weather conditions, lingering smoke from forest fires that lasted for months. Everything was much more difficult than I thought. »

Still, Marbach hopes people will come to see and find joy in his celebration of the places so treasured.

“It’s a great slice of representation of the best of Oregon’s state park system! It depicts all the different geographical regions in a mix of scenic and historic locations and, where possible, images of people recreating themselves. Think of the exhibit as a kind of geographic wheelchair travel experience through Oregon,” Marbach said.

Be sure to watch Grant’s Getaways weekly half-hour program. The show airs every Saturday and Sunday at 4 p.m. on KGW.

For something different, you can follow my adventures in Oregon via Grant’s Getaways podcast: each segment is a storytelling session where I tell behind-the-scenes stories from four decades of traveling and TV reporting.

You can also read about many of my favorite trips and adventures in Oregon in Grant’s Getaways book series, including:

“Grants Getaways I”, photography by Steve Terrill

“Grant’s Getaways II”, photography by Steve Terrill

“Grant’s Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures”, Photograph by Jeff Kastner

“Grant’s Getaways: Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon,” Photograph by Jeff Kastner

“Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures with the Kids”, Photograph by Jeff Kastner

The book collection features hundreds of outdoor activities across Oregon and promises to engage a child of any age.