Tree- and forest-lovers of all ages can learn about sustainability and experience a Portland icon all in one trip by visiting the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum. Located in Washington Park, the museum is easily accessible by MAX Light Rail. The two-story, 20,000 square-foot (1,858 sq m) facility features Cascadian-style architecture and a range of interactive, forest-focused exhibits. Adults and young ones will learn and be entertained by a variety of simulators and virtual tours.
The museum is one of three programs operated by the World Forestry Center (WFC). This nonprofit organization’s mission is to connect people to the importance of forests and sustainable forestry. Founded in 1966, the WFC (originally called the Western Forest Center) was created to replace the Forestry Building, a majestic log structure built for the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition. After the original building was destroyed in a fire in 1964, its new facility was rebuilt near the Oregon Zoo.
Explore the WFC Discovery Museum
First floor: Pacific Northwest Forests
The WFC is dedicated to educating people about the importance of trees and forests worldwide. The first floor of the Discovery Museum, however, focuses specifically on forests of the Pacific Northwest. Learn about forest systems and cycles, their importance to streams and rivers and how Oregon’s forests are managed. Visitors from near and far can enhance their knowledge of the area’s forests and the unique role they play in the environment. Plus, learn how to operate a Timberjack harvester, discover animals beneath the forest floor, test your smokejumping skills and take a “wet-free” raft ride on the Clackamas River!
Second floor: Forests of the World
Head upstairs to enjoy whirlwind virtual tours of four forest types: boreal, temperate, sub-tropical and tropical. The Trans-Siberian Railway takes you through a cold landscape where people depend on the boreal forest to survive. Next, take a virtual boat ride on Songhua Lake to learn about population pressures on China’s temperate forests. A jeep ride through a South African park lets you observe wildlife in a sub-tropical forest, while a canopy crane gives you a treetop view of Brazil’s Amazon tropical rainforest.
Outside the museum
There’s more to explore on the exterior of the Discovery Museum, too. Visitors can view a 10,000 pound (4,536 kg), 5-million-year-old petrified stump of a Giant Sequoia tree. Kids seeking hands-on fun can climb aboard Peggy, a vintage steam locomotive. Originally built in 1909, the vehicle is now permanently parked outside the museum.
Visit a demonstration forest
Visitors are also welcome at Magness Memorial Tree Farm, the WFC’s demonstration forest and outdoor education site in Sherwood (45 minutes southwest of Portland). Donated to WFC in 1977 by local residents Howard and Panzy Magness, the land was developed to demonstrate forest management. Book a guided tour in advance or enjoy exploring the area on your own. The farm features 2.5 miles (4 km) of hiking trails, as well as streams, meadows and picnic areas.
Know before you go
The WFC Discovery Museum is open daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day. (From Labor Day to Memorial Day, the museum is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.) Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for those ages 3 to 18. Magness Memorial Tree Farm is open year-round, dawn to dusk.