People Driving along Oregon Route 18 in the autumn months or early December are treated to a unique view that is sure to brighten their day – a giant smiley face looking back at them from forest-covered hillside.
Located at roughly mile 25 on Oregon Route 18, between Willamina and Grand Ronde, the now famous smiley face of Oregon makes its appearance every fall, as the color of the trees that make up its body start to change color. It is about 300 feet in diameter, and consists of two different types of conifers, one that changes color in autumn, and one that remains all year round. It has become a popular landmark in Oregon’s rural Polk County, and should continue to put smiles on people’s faces for the next 30-50 years, until the trees are ready to be harvested.
The story of the Oregon smiley face dates back to 2011, when the Hampton Lumber company decided to create the popular design out of trees, during a reforestation operation. They used Douglas fir for the eyes and mouth of the smiley face, and larch for the body of the design. Unlike most conifers, larch loses its needles and turns yellow in autumn.
“The idea for the smiley face started with David Hampton and our former timberland manager, Dennis Creel. When we harvested the site, we knew the area was highly visible to people travelling down Highway 18 so David and Dennis saw an opportunity to have a little fun,” Hampton spokesperson Kristin told Western Journal. “They used a rope to measure the circle out and the eyes and mouth were triangulated from that point.”
“Let’s just say smiley face designs are not the most efficient reforestation methods out there. With planning and planting it took about a week to finish,” the spokesperson added.
The Oregon smiley face may start to lose its edges over time, but experts at Hampton Lumber say it will remain very clear for at least another decade. Then, in 30 to 50 years, the trees will be harvested and turned to lumber at sawmills in Willamina and Tillamook. For now, though, the smiley face helps cheer up locals when they really need a reason to smile.
“It’s a very depressed area here,” one local woman told KATU-TV. “The jobs are gone. You drive along and see a smiley face, that’s all that matters. Yeah, my day is going to get better now because I saw a smiley face. It kind of brightens up the community.”
This cute smiley face is just one of the coolest designs created out of living trees over the years. Not too long ago we featured the world’s largest signature made of trees, and the Soviet-era “Lenin” trees in Siberia.