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Five Cool and Crazy Geological Wonders to See in Oregon

1. Fort Rock State Monument. Found in the Fort Rock State Natural Area along with Fort Rock Cave (a National Historic Monument), located in south-central Lake County, Oregon, about 65 miles south of Bend, this National Natural Landmark looms large in the barren high desert, designated as a striking example of a circular, fort-like volcanic outcrop. Known as a "tuff ring," which sat in what was a shallow sea lakebed in prehistoric times, this gigantic volcanic rock walled ring is about 4,460 feet in diameter and stand about 200 feet above the surrounding plains. William Sullivan, an early settler to the area, named Fort Rock in 1873; it became a designated landmark in 1976. Be sure to check out Rock Fort Cave, in which the oldest pair of native sandals were discovered -- dating back around 9,000-13,000 years. You'll also find numerous other tuff rings in the area. While there, be sure to also visit the Crack in the Ground, a volcanic fissure at the Four Craters Lava Field, about 20 miles due east. More details at the official Website: Fort Rock State Monument.

2. Cove Palisades State Park (including The Island and The Peninsula). Located in central Oregon, near the town of Culver, about 45 miles north of Bend, and situated around towering cliffs, this park and the area surrounding Lake Billy Chinook offers much for visitors to see, though so much history of the area has been lost with the flooding of the canyons from the Round Butte Dam. The park, which encompasses about 4,400 acres, is an area where the Crooked and Metolius Rivers meet up to form the larger Deschutes River. The Cove refers to an outcropping no longer visible because of the dam, but one of the highlights that remain is The Island (which is actually a peninsula), the largest remnant of an enormous basalt lava flow, a protected area because it is one of the last remaining ungrazed and unaltered ecosystems (pre-settlement ecology) in the western U.S. While visiting, be sure to hike the Tam A Lau Trail (a Native American phrase meaning place of big rocks on the ground), a six-mile trail that ends in a 3.5 mile loop around The Peninsula, offering amazing views of the high Cascade peaks and the Deschutes and Crooked River Canyons. More details at the official Website: Cove Palisades State Park.

3. Honeyman State Park Sand Dunes. Located within the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area on the central west coast of Oregon just outside of Florence, about 65 miles west of Eugene, this 515-acre park named in honor of Jessie M. Honeyman of Portland (an advocate of roadside beautification and scenic preservation) offers miles of sand dunes, some of which are as much as a mile long and nearly 500 feet high. The dunes make the visit, but stay and look around the 43-acres historic district of the park, which includes buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places -- built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and 40s -- including the stone and log Clearwox Lake Bathhouse. Clearwox is great for swimming, while Woahink Lake is great for boating. The park includes the state's second largest campground, and hiking trails. More details at the official Website: Honeyman State Park Sand Dunes.

4. John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Located outside of the town of Kimberly, in east-central Oregon, about 110 miles northeast of Bend, this almost 14,000-acre park is known for its strikingly colored badlands as well as the well-preserved layers of 40,000 fossil plants and animals that lived in the John Day River Basin between 45 and 5 million years ago, one of the two most complete fossil records in the world -- and is a must-se for all visitors. The park is comprised of three units: Sheep Rock, which also contains the park's headquarters and visitor's center; Painted Hills, named for the amazingly delicate and beautiful layers of reds, tans, yellows, oranges, and blacks that almost appear painted on the hillsides, and one of 7 Wonders of Oregon; and Clarno, which contains cliffs and palisades formed 54-40 million years ago in a then lush semi-tropical rainforest, with 173 species of trees, vines, shrubs, and other plans fossils discovered here. Scenic drives and hikes are available through all three units, allowing you to experience the prehistoric past -- and see science in action. More details at the official Website: John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

5. Shore Acres State Park. Located in the southwesterly coast of Oregon in the Coos Bay area, about 100 miles southwest of Eugene, this 745-acre park offers both unparalleled ocean vistas and amazing gardens in which something is blooming year-round. Once the grand estate of timber baron Louis Simpson, Shore Acres (the name given to the estate by the Simpsons) sits high on the rugged sandstone cliffs high above the Cape Arago coast, with its grounds covered in gardens planted with flowers from all over the world. After taking in the gardens, head down a trail to a secluded ocean cove at Simpson Beach. On the site of Simpson's vanished mansion, a fully enclosed observation building allows a protected view of the ocean and contains interpretative panels describing the history of the estate. Flowering plants and dates: spring bulbs and daffodils (February-March); tulips (March-April); rhododendrons and azaleas (April-May); flowering annuals and perennials (May-September); rose bushes (June-September); dahlias (August-October); holiday plantings and lights (Thanksgiving-New Year's). More details at the official Website: Shore Acres State Park.

Bonus Oregon Geographic Wonder

Newberry Crater. Located between two lakes (Paulina and East Lakes) in central Oregon, about 30 miles south of Bend, part of the beautiful Newberry National Volcanic Monument, a 55,500-acre park managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The 4 x 5 mile wide crater, formed about 6,100 years ago, is actually the basin at the top of a dormant volcano said to be some 20 miles in diameter -- the oldest one east of the Cascades -- and both seismically and geothermally active. While exploring the area, make time for the Lava River Cave, the Lava Cast Forest, and Paulina Lake. And definitely do not miss the 80-foot Paulina Waterfalls, surrounded by volcanic cliffs. Lots to do here, including miles of hiking, biking, and horseback-riding trails. More details at the official Website: Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.

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