Umatilla Chemical Depot – Hermiston, Oregon - Atlas Obscura

Umatilla Chemical Depot

Hermiston, Oregon

A stunning landscape with bunker after bunker of chemical weapons as far as the eye can see. 


Heading West to Portland, Oregon via automobile, you stand a good chance of passing by some very unusual and imposing terrain.

As you’re cruising on I-82 towards the junction with I-84 you’ll notice that you’re passing many large earth covered bunkers. The dirt camouflages the bunkers, so you wonder how many have passed before you noticed them. They keep ticking by as you clock more and more miles, and finally you reach the junction, which is a huge elevated bend in the road. And you realize, that every bunker you passed was merely the end of a row of dozens just like it.

The view from just after the junction is a surreal and awe inspiring sight to behold. The sheer scale of the compound, and the bunkers blistering the landscape in perfectly aligned rows that seem to stretch off infinitely is not something that you can capture in a photograph. You have to experience it for yourself.

The Umatilla Chemical Depot bunkers are used as storage for WWII and Cold War era chemical weapons such as mustard gas, sarin and other nerve agents . Though the site is incredibly vast, it only contains some 12% of the US stockpile of such WMD’s.

It’s not all doom and gloom, a 1993 UN resolution banned all use and storage of nerve and blister agents, and by the end of 2011 the entire stockpile will have been incinerated.

Due to its isolation and freedom from development the site has become home to rare species of birds like the burrowing owl as well as rare plant life and herds of antelope.

Know Before You Go

To the right of I-82 South, just before and after the Junction with I-84.

I-84 West, just after the Junction with I-82.

Find a place to stop, or make someone else drive so you can stare in awe out of the passenger window.