Smith Rock State Park

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Smith Rock State Park
Scenic view of Smith Rock.jpg
Smith Rock State Park is located in Oregon
Smith Rock State Park
Type Public, state
Location Deschutes County, Oregon
Nearest city Redmond
Coordinates 44°22′09″N 121°08′18″W / 44.3692875°N 121.1383676°W / 44.3692875; -121.1383676Coordinates: 44°22′09″N 121°08′18″W / 44.3692875°N 121.1383676°W / 44.3692875; -121.1383676[1]
Area 641 acres (259 ha)
Operated by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department
Open year round
Status open
Official website

Smith Rock State Park is an American state park located in central Oregon's High Desert near the communities of Redmond and Terrebonne. Its sheer cliffs of tuff and basalt are ideal for rock climbing of all difficulty levels. Smith Rock is generally considered the birthplace of modern American sport climbing, and is host to cutting-edge climbing routes. It is popular for sport climbing, traditional climbing, multi-pitch climbing, and bouldering.


The geology of Smith Rocks is volcanic. It is made up of layers of recent basalt flows overlaying older Clarno ash and tuff formations. Approximately 30 million years ago, a large caldera was formed when overlying rock collapsed into an underground lava chamber. This created a huge amount of rock and ash debris that filled the caldera. That material solidified into rock, becoming Smith Rock tuff. Rhyolite flows intruded along faults in the Smith Rock Tuff. [2] A half million years ago, basalt lava flows from nearby volcanoes covered the older tuff.[3][4][5]

More recently, the Crooked River cut its way through the layers of rock to create today's geographic features. Smith Rock itself is a 3,200-foot (980 m)-high ridge (above sea level) with a sheer cliff-face overlooking a bend in the Crooked River (elev. 2600 ft), making the cliffs about 600 feet high.[3][4]


The origin of the Smith Rock name is uncertain. One story, published the Albany States Rights Democrat in 1867, states that Smith Rock was named after John Smith, who was Linn County Sheriff and an Oregon state legislator in the 1850s and 1860s. The newspaper article credits Smith with "discovering" the rock. Another story claims the rock was named after a soldier named Smith who fell to his death from the rock in 1863 while his unit was camped nearby.[3][6]

The State of Oregon obtained the park property between 1960 and 1975 from the City of Redmond and Harry and Diane Kem.[4]


The Crooked River running through Smith Rock

The park has many miles of developed trails for hiking. The trails have viewpoints along the routes that overlook the Crooked River and nearby rock formations. The two main trails are the Summit Trail and Misery Ridge. The park's trail network links to neighboring Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management trails on adjacent public lands. The soil and native vegetation on the steep hillsides in the park are very sensitive to damage, so visitors are required to stay on established trails.[4][7]


The park contains the first U.S. climb rated 5.14 (8b+). The area is well known for its challenging climbing routes and attracts high level climbers.[citation needed] In 1983, Alan Watts began to use sport climbing ethics which pushed American climbing to new levels. Shortly after, between 1992 and 2009, about 500 new climbing routes were added.[8] This brought climbers from all over the world as Smith Rock became the world capital for sport climbing. To this day, the park still attracts climbers from around the globe. The winter weather is typically cold (below freezing), but climbers still make the journey due to the reduced traffic on routes. Summer months regularly reach the 100s °F (40s °C).[9] Some climbing routes are closed periodically for the protection of nesting birds of prey.[6]


Smith Rock silhouetted at sunset

The park's day-use area has a visitor center, picnic facilities, and restrooms. The day-use area is open from dawn to dusk year-round. There is also a tent-only campground for overnight visitors. The campsites are located approximately 600 feet (180 m) from a parking area along the park's main access road. Restrooms, showers, and a cooking area are located near the parking area. Open fires are not permitted.[4][7]


There is abundant wildlife in and around the park. Mule deer and many small mammals are common in the park. river otter and beaver are found along the park's Crooked River frontage. The Smith Rock area hosts many types of birds, including birds of prey such as prairie falcons and golden eagles. Geese and ducks nest along the river in the spring time. There are rattlesnakes in some areas of the park.[4][7]


Smith Rock State Park is home to some extreme running races.[10] The races include distances ranging from 4 miles to 50k, all on the challenging and hilly terrain of Smith Rock.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Smith Rock State Park". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  2. ^ Paul Thornton Robinson and DH Stensland. Geologic map of the Smith Rock area, Jefferson, Deschutes, and Crook counties, Oregon. US Geological Survey, 1979
  3. ^ a b c McArthur, Lewis A. and Lewis L. McArthur, Oregon Geographic Names (Seventh edition), "Smith Rock," Oregon Historical Society Press: Portland, Oregon (2003), pp. 890-891.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Smith Rock State Park Climbing and Trail Guide, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Salem, Oregon, March 2014.
  5. ^ "Smith Rock", Travel Oregon, Oregon Tourism Commission, Salem, Oregon, accessed 27 May 2015.
  6. ^ a b "History", Smith Rock State Park, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Salem, Oregon, accessed 27 May 2015.
  7. ^ a b c "Park Info", Smith Rock State Park, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Salem, Oregon, accessed 27 May 2015.
  8. ^ Phuong Cat Le (September 20, 2007). "Climbing is the main attraction, but there are other reasons to visit". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Hearst Communications Inc. 
  9. ^ Allan Watts (January 6, 2010). Rock Climbing: Smith Rocks. Falcon Guild. Morris Book. ISBN 978-0762741243. 
  10. ^ GoBeyond Racing

External links[edit]