This giant smiley face of trees greets drivers in Polk County every fall

November 29, 2021
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Drivers along Oregon 18 this time of year might spot something strange in the forested hillside of rural Polk County – two eyes and a wide grin.

The giant smiley face made of trees appears every fall as the trees’ needles change color. It’s visible near mile-marker 25 on Oregon 18, between the towns of Grand Ronde and Willamina.

But how did it get there?

The face is located on Hampton Lumber timberland. Company spokesperson Kristin Rasmussen said in an email that the smiley face was designed and planted in 2011 by Hampton Lumber co-owner David Hampton and the company’s then-timberland manager, Dennis Creel.

“After every harvest, our foresters start planning the reforestation process,” she wrote. “They typically plant a variety of native species depending on the elevation and soil conditions, including Douglas fir, western hemlock, noble fir and western red cedar.”

While the eyes and mouth were planted with Douglas fir, the “yellow” of the smiley face was created by planting larch trees.

“Larch is a conifer with needles that turn yellow and drop off in the fall, which is why the smiley face is best visible this time of year,” Rasmussen wrote.

Planting crews used a rope to plot the circle and triangulate the location for the eyes and mouth. The face is about 300 feet in diameter.

Passersby will be able to see the smiling face every fall for the next 30-50 years, until the trees are ready to be harvested and processed into lumber at Hampton’s sawmills in Willamina and Tillamook.

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