That’s the one word that pops in your head when you enter the parking lot of Peterson Rock Garden, and are immediately faced with the Independence Hall replica. The amount of work that went into making each of the structures at the garden, with thousands of small rocks and gems is just amazing.
They aren’t painted either – in many cases the natural colors of the stones are what gives the overall sculpture it’s color and it is very impressive.
And if you are in to architecture, thinking about someone figuring out how to create structures, that could hold the weight they are holding is impressive to say the least.
That’s why for decades, people visiting Central Oregon have swung by Peterson Rock Garden to take a look at the amazing structures built out of millions of rocks. The structures range from the Independence Hall to a New York-like skyline with bridges and tall buildings – even a statue of liberty.
The garden started in 1935 when Rasmus Peterson decided that farming in the rocky Central Oregon soil was more work than building some amazing structures with rocks, glass, and other items he found around his Redmond, Oregon home.
“He started farming the property around here and with all the rocks he found he started building things,” said Susan Caward, Peterson’s granddaughter who is now helping to bring the garden back to its former glory. “Family and the neighbors loved what he built and it became what it is today.”
Caward said she never got to meet her grandfather, who had a heart attack in 1952, but she and Owen Evans have taken it upon themselves to work on the gardens.
Today, while still impressive, it has the look of an older attraction that is being renovated. The two have applied to enter the gardens into the National Registry of Historic Places and are constantly taking on the weeds and reworking to help rebuild some of the structures that show signs of wear.
After Peterson died, the gardens, much of which are made of concrete to hold the rocks and petrified wood and other gems and minerals, started to erode. Some of the areas have been cordoned off, and plans are in the works to rehabilitate much of the garden.
“We are bringing it back, it is taking a lot of work, but we are open and people are still enjoying it,” Evans said.
Future plans for the gardens include fixing path work and making it more ADA compatible, as well.
But make no mistake, this is still an attraction to put on your list. While there is a small fee for seeing the garden – they use the honor system and a donation box – it is well worth the trip.
“The island with the geese is one of our more popular attractions,” Evans said.
While there is a concrete bridge that will take you out to the island, it has seen better days, but you still get a great view of the pond, island and geese that visit the property.
The property itself is a great spot for a picnic or gathering, and there are more than 25 peacocks.
“The little kids love the birds,” Caward said.
There is also a snack bar and a museum, with a gift shop, so you can buy gems and stones and also see some of the history of the gardens.
“We are working on it every day, and continue to see how we can make it better,” Evans said. “After 35 years it needs work, but we are committed.”
About Peterson Rock Garden: This is a Central Oregon attraction that has been around for decades and features large sculptures of buildings made out of gems, glass and stone from the area. It is currently under renovation, but is still an amazing site to check out if you are in the Redmond/Bend area.
What to bring: This is an outside attraction that does require some walking. Make sure to wear weather-appropriate clothing and comfortable shoes. Donations are taken by check and cash, so have some cash on hand if you are going to make a donation.
Tip: Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the grassy area near the parking lot – and don’t forget to cross the driveway and see the island surrounded by a pond. It is truly a remarkable site and shouldn’t be missed.
Season: The garden is open year-round.
Getting there: The garden is located at 7930 SW 77th Street in Redmond Oregon. It is three miles off Route 97, 10 miles north of Bend and seven miles south of Redmond.
By Patrick Johnson