There is a place in Portland where you can learn more than you ever needed or wanted to know about trees. Located adjacent to the Oregon Zoo, The World Forestry Center Discovery Museum is a great place to stop for a few hours and contains plenty of interactive educational exhibits to teach and amuse all ages.
After paying admission ( $9-adults, $8-seniors, $6-kids) it's tempting to head straight into the main exhibits. Don't be tempted by the enormous redwood tree in the center of the room, take a few minutes to watch the video to the immediate right of the ticket booth. It sets the stage for your forestry learning experience, where the emphasis is on the relationship between people and the environment. It's a good video and it explains forestry on a global scale.
As soon as the video is over, you can rush to that enormous tree. It's impressive!
The building is two stories and the tree is the height of the entire building.
The bottom floor has most of the interactive exhibits, including a mock white water rafting adventure. They have games where you can test your skill at being a forest fire fighter (smoke jumper) or trying a task working in a wood mill. There is a game testing your knowledge of recyclable products, answering the much debated question...which is better, paper or plastic?
The bottom level also has a very pretty outdoor courtyard with a waterfall.
The upper half of the building houses a special exhibits area, which was currently filled with Ansel Adams photography.
I've seen Ansel Adams photographs in person, but the volume of photographs in this exhibit really gave me a deeper appreciation for the photographer. Many of his photographs are breathtaking. The museum was very empty when I visited, so it was a treat to really be able to take my time enjoying the photographs. In particular, I thought his photographs of the southwest were stunning. The Aspen tree photographs were also of particular note. I love the pieces that play with shadows and contrasts. Gorgeous stuff.
My favorite educational part of the museum was a video based exhibit on the top floor. There were four videos, each lasting about five minutes and speaking about a particular forestry issue in a different region of the world. This tied in directly with the museum introductory film at the entrance.
The first video was about the Russian forests, which are vast and very cold. The video is set up as if you are looking out of a train car and are sitting as a passenger. Each video has a different mode of transportation to match the location. As soon as the video is over, you move to the next room and they are timed to keep the crowd moving.
In the second room, you sit on a boat in China. I learned that China is the biggest importer of wood. China has its own huge forest areas, but they have largely been destroyed. China has been big in its efforts to plant trees, requiring citizens to plant a new tree every year.
In the third room, we went to Africa in a jeep.
I had trouble watching the video in the Africa section because a father was letting his two young sons climb all over the jeep and they made a ton of noise. I thought that it was pretty rude of them, but I just stuck it out and tried to enjoy the video. I was frustrated.
The final video was in South America and the transportation was a basket lift to explore trees in the rain forest.
The rain forest showed a arborist working atop the highest trees to preserve and discover species.
Here is a poster detailing the exhibit.
There was this crazy tree stump with a rifle. When the tree was alive a rifle was left in the crook and the tree continued to grow around it.
Sprinkled through out the museum were little wooden books each containing a short story regarding an aspect of forestry or a person working in the industry. I know that they were intended for kids, but I enjoyed reading them and found them to be quite educational. I was surprised that the museum wasn't anti-logging, citing loggers to often be advocates for sustainable forestry practices. Naturally this makes sense, but growing up in the city, we often think of logging as a bad industry. Of course we think this, yet do nothing to scale back our use of tree based products.
I looked at the rings on this tree towards the exit of the museum.
On exiting, I picked up a map detailing hiking trails adjacent to the museum. I didn't have time to go on a hike, but it was fun to look at the map for future Portland trips.
I enjoyed my afternoon at the World Forestry Center and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area.