Glacial Erratic Rock – Willamette Valley

Composed of metamorphic rock called argillite.

Back during the last Ice Age (12,000 to 18,000 years ago) the Missoula Floods, originating in southwest Montana, deposited vast amounts of earthly debris over portions of Idaho, Washington and Oregon – eventually spilling into the Pacific Ocean. Because of these floods, the Willamette Valley in Oregon became one of the most fertile regions in the state. Vineyards sprung up – some 40,000 acres of grapes – which now produce some of the finest wines in the French Burgundy style.

When the 3,000 square mile prehistoric Glacial Lake Missoula flooded, the waters coursed through the Columbia River Gorge at 60-miles-per-hour carrying huge boulders with it. Eventually the cataclysmic waters receded and what remained were “glacial erratics” stranded where they had come to rest.

One such 40-ton boulder stands atop a hillside in McMinnville, OR surrounded by rich farmland and vineyards below. You can hike the 1/4 mile paved path year-round up to the site and see the largest glacial erratic found in the Willamette Valley. You will also be rewarded with spectacular vistas.

My mother was raised on this hilltop, her family moved there in the early 40s when she was 12, and she used to hike to the Rock throughout her childhood. It hadn’t been “discovered” yet and she knew it only as a cool rock and a good place to hang out (my slang, not hers). I also loved the rock as a child and remember finding it one day when I was at grandpa and grandma’s farm. It was a warm day and I climbed up on it’s sunny surface to daydream. I remember the rock seemed out of place there (being the only thing like it in the area). I knew it was a special find, but I imagined it coming from outer space – like a meteor.

Over the years I traveled and moved to other states but was surprised to discover recently that the rock is somewhat famous and an Oregon State Park called Erratic Rock State Natural Site. Now anyone can climb to the top of this hill to lie on the rock’s sun-soaked surface, enjoy the scenery and, of course, daydream.

Check out my Flickr photos on this hike at Glacial Erratic Rock


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