Dinosaurs in the Trees?
O.K. This blog largely covers the Portland/Vancouver area, and all things fun, cool, cultural, stylish and culinary. Yet once in a while we have to venture out of our immediate zone to highlight places worth visiting. To be sure, the Oregon Coast is a top destination for not only us, but visitors from around the world. And yes, the beaches are truly great, but what is this we hear about dinosaurs down south, just outside of the coastal town of Port Orford??? Alerted by a mainstream media story the other day, well, that’s exactly what I found. There is a mom and pop roadside attraction, right up there with the world’s largest ball of string, that does indeed deserve some ink. Enter Prehistoric Gardens…a 62-year old place of magic just a day’s drive away down 101.
Present owner, Kiki McGrath, inherited Prehistoric Gardens from her grandfather, Ernie Nelson, in 1999. Nelson was a frustrated accountant who always dreamed of creating art. Not able to do so for a living, he created Prehistoric Gardens because, “He wanted to create something and share it with everybody,” says McGrath (quote courtesy: Fox Business News). Growing up as a child in Minnesota, Nelson drew dinosaurs with notable talent. However, for stability reasons during the Great Depression, Nelson chose a career in accounting (even though at one point he was offered a job at Walt Disney Studios as a cartoonist). Of course, Nelson’s dream of creating art didn’t pass, and a decade later, he quit his accounting job, purchased 70 acres on the Oregon Coast and began creating life-size sculptures of dinosaurs. Using concrete as a medium, Nelson was able to parlay his artistic talent into a wide collection of very finely-detailed creatures, later finishing them with paint. His largest dinosaur is 46 feet high and 86 feet long. That’s a lot of concrete!
Much like other roadside attractions making the scene in the 50’s, this was a strong part of American culture. People cruised the highways, hitting roadside attractions with firm regularity and Nelson was able to make a business of it. Still running today, this place should be on your bucket list. And if you grew up watching Land of the Lost…well…you might just be checking that box much sooner than later!
Details on Prehistoric Gardens
Prehistoric Gardens is located halfway between Port Orford and Gold Beach, Oregon, around 275 miles from Portland (4.5 hours roughly). Additional detail on this very cool spot is offered below:
Address: 36848 US Hwy. 101 South, Port Orford, OR 97465
Admission Prices: Adults — $12.00; Children (3 to 12 yrs) — $8.00; Seniors (60+ yrs) — $10.00; Littlefoots (2 and under) — FREE
Hours of Operation: 10am to 5pm – Spring/Fall; 9am to 6pm – Summer; **Please call for winter hours