7 Weird Natural Wonders of the Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is renowned for its oddities, myths and legends that provide its charm, such as Sasquatch, D.B. Cooper or the Graveyard of the Pacific. Some pretty fascinating natural wonders call the Northwest home, too. From ghostly trees to giant mushrooms, here are seven weird natural wonders of the Northwest you’ll be itching to explore.
Location: Washington’s Olympic Peninsula
Are they Native American burial sites? Maybe pocket gopher mounds? Perhaps they are the leftovers of an alien excursion?
No one knows exactly what’s behind the Mima Mounds outside of Littlerock, Wash. One theory postulates they’re the product of root growth draining soil. A San Jose State University researcher built a model that showed gophers were to blame. But one thing’s for sure: the 2.75-mile hike among these curious natural wonders of the Northwest, which rise up in endless grassy waves, is a hike like no other.
Location: Oregon’s Blue Mountains
In 1998, the US Forest Service ventured to Oregon’s Blue Mountains to uncover why more than 100 trees had died or taken ill. They found much more than they bargained for.
Though most believe the 200-ton blue whale is the world’s largest organism, they discovered a lifeform that’s at least 38 times larger. Known as Armillaria ostoyae (or the honey mushroom), this fungus in Oregon covers nearly 4 square miles and is estimated to be at least 2,400 years old.
It’s not the easiest being to spot, as it lives largely underground and under tree bark, but the Forest Service offers up these GPS coordinates for those brave enough to seek a peek at one of the weirdest natural wonders of the Northwest.
Location: Soap Lake, Washington
You won’t need to hoof it to get to the shores of this tranquil lake, so-named for the natural foam that forms on its surface and the mineral-rich waters that give it a soapy sheen. But it will make for a nice and soothing relax after a hike among the nearby Lenore Lake Caves or along the 15 miles of trails at Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park.
Location: Linn Co., Oregon
Its name is an apt one for the summer months of the year, when Lost Lake, near Oregon’s Santiam Pass, all but disappears as its waters cascade down an open lava tube that acts like a drain. The seeping water feeds an underground aquifer and gives visitors to the lake’s namesake campground something to wonder about.
Location: Cape Perpetua, Oregon
Is it truly bottomless and destined to drain the Pacific Ocean? Not quite, as it’s only about 20-feet deep, but it is surely one of the most aweing natural wonders of the Northwest. One of three incredible coastal features near Cape Perpetua — the other two being the Devil’s Churn and the Spouting Horn — Thor’s Well is a collapsed sea cave that constantly fills, empties and blasts out Pacific spray. Take in views of the well and other features along this varied Cape Perpetua hike.
Old Man of Crater Lake
Location: Klamath Co., Oregon
For more than 100 years, a 30-foot long hemlock stump has bobbed silently up and down and all across southern Oregon’s Crater Lake. The mysterious stump, dubbed the Old Man of the Lake, can be hard to pinpoint, but the hike down to Cleetwood Cove and a boat ride out to Wizard Island will up your chances of seeing the regal veteran.
Ghost Raft at Spirit Lake
Location: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington
There are plenty of reminders left over from the eruption of Mount Saint Helens back in May 1980, but none so eerie or transfixing as the log raft that makes its way slowly across the surface of Spirit Lake. The raft, comprised of thousands of dead trees bowled over by the blast, has drifted across the lake in the shadow of the rejuvenating mountain for nearly four decades now. This member of our natural wonders of the Northwest is best viewed from hikes like Norway Pass and Harry’s Ridge.
Image of Soap Lake courtesy of Teri J. Pieper