By Ashley Hamann
Nestled into the mountains on Highway 6 there is a center dedicated to showcasing the history of the Tillamook State Forest and is helping to educate people on the intricacies of this beautiful piece of nature. With rushing rivers, vibrant green trails, information on fire safety, and an endless amount of history on how the forest has become what it is today. Instead of zooming by, it is definitely worth taking the time to stop in for a bit.
About 25 minutes through the mountain pass from downtown Tillamook, you can spot the Tillamook Forest Center by the signage on the side of the Highway 6. When you enter you will find a large watch tower, the main building, and a large parking lot with picnic tables that you can enjoy a nice lunch at during your day at the center. Upon entrance to the main building, there is a gift shop and a place to make small donations to the center although a fee is not required for entry.
The building is a wide hallway that takes you through the different stages of the Tillamook Forests history. The first is about the wildfire that took place in 1933 and how the fire was handled. There are maps showing the extent of the fire, gear of the firefighters who defeated the flames, and much information on fire prevention and safety throughout this sector of the building.
The next is about early life in the woods and is majorly based on what the railroad logging town of Maxville looked like in its prime. You’ll learn about how the people lived, inventions of the time, and the people who lived in the area. There are great exhibits of what the houses would look like and even a place to observe some of the machinery used at the time.
Following some history on the old town, you will come across the area where they talk about replanting the forest. After the fire there was 450 square miles of burnt forest that had to be replanted in order to grow back to what it was. There is information on how the fires changed the economic systems for land owners and how that helped create our current state forest system that we know today. You will learn how they paid to replant the forest and the effort the people put in to make it happen.
The final sector of the building educates on what the forest looks like today. It has displays on the fish population, how the trees have changed, the current animals that live there today, and so many more facts about the beautiful forest.
You can then leave out a back entrance of the building and cross a bridge that takes you over the Wilson River to an array of trails. From here you can take a variety of different trail lengths. Cedar Creek Trail which is about 0.8 miles, Wilson Falls at 1.7 miles, Footbridge Trailhead which spans 3.2 miles, and you can walk the North Fork of the Wilson River which is 22 miles long. The trails are gorgeous and some take you directly along the water with many access points to the river.
The Tillamook Forest Center is definitely worth a visit so you can learn about the forest, and experience what it has to offer for yourself. Within the actual center there are no animals allowed, but they are welcome on the trails with you. The area is open from 10:00am to 5:00pm Wednesday through Sunday for the summer so drop in when you get the chance and make sure to pack a lunch for your day.
July 22nd marks the 50th anniversary of the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forest dedication. The Tillamook Forest Center will be hosting an event that day, and more details will be at tillamookforestcenter.org.