When Danish Immigrant Rasmus Petersen (1883-1952) came to America at age 17, he started collecting all kinds of colorful local rocks from the area around his home in the Cascade Mountains. These rocks included Oregon agates, obsidian, petrified wood, malachite, and jasper. However, it wasn’t until 1935 that Petersen began building things out of his rocks. At first, it was just a small rockery near his home, but over the years, Petersen built increasingly complex structures on his four-acre site. When he died in 1952, he had been building for 17 years, and had mortared tens of thousands of rocks together into miniature buildings, monuments, lagoons, and bridges.
The result is in an amazing four-acre park, featuring replicas of historic buildings, bridges, towers, and many other wonderful structures–all created out of rocks and petrified wood. Today, while the gardens look a bit neglected, it is still a magical place to visit. There is a small on-site museum, featuring a variety of rock specimens. Peacocks, chickens, and cats roam the gardens freely, and picnic sites are available.
Update: The Petersen Rock Garden was closed in September 2016. However, as of 2022, it is open to the public from the hours of 9AM-5PM. A $6 donation is requested for the caretakers.
Update as of September 2022: Petersen has been temporarily closed.
Know Before You Go
Midway between Bend and Redmond. From US 97 turn north on SW 61st St., then left on Young Ave. Cross Canal Blvd and then quickly turn right on SW 77th St. The Garden is less than a mile on the right. The rockery seems to be open on a daily basis as of June 2018. Some restoration work is being done, the museum is open, and the grounds are all accessible. $6 donation for adults. Worth the detour!