Oregon’s Famous Smiley Face Foliage Will Reach the Top Soon — How You Can See It

Motorists traveling south on Highway 18 in Oregon will soon be in for a surprise.

A giant smiley face stands out on the hillside near mile marker 25 on Oregon 18 between the towns of Grand Ronde and Willamina. Interestingly, the giant smiley face, seen here on land owned by Hampton Lumber, is intentional.

Because there is a giant smiley face

After each harvest, foresters at Hampton Lumber begin the reforestation process to ensure a healthy forest will re-grow in the area, says Kristin Rasmussen, a spokeswoman for Hampton Lumber, according to Oregon Live. Depending on the location and environment, they typically plant a variety of native species—such as Douglas fir, western hemlock, noble fir, and western red cedar—to suit the elevation and soil conditions.

“The idea for the smiley face started with David Hampton and our former timberland manager, Dennis Creel,” Rasmussen said, according to Simple Floors. “When we picked the location, we knew the area was very visible to people traveling on Highway 18, so David and Dennis saw an opportunity to have a little fun.”

How the Giant Smiley Face Was Created

In 2011, Hampton and Creel “used a rope to measure the circle, and then the eyes and mouth were triangulated from that point,” Rasmussen said. “Douglas fir was planted for the eyes and mouth and the rest of the face was filled with pine. Both species will eventually be turned into lumber at our sawmills in Willamina and Tillamook.”

This is why the choice of tree species is important.

The Douglas fir, while not technically a true fir, is cone-shaped like other firs and is evergreen, meaning its needles stay green year-round. The trees, which can reach a height of 80 feet, can grow 12 to 20 feet wide, according to The Morton Arboretum.

Meanwhile, pines, which also have the pyramidal shape typical of conifers, can reach heights of 65 feet. The difference, however, is that it is not evergreen.

“The laryngeal needles turn yellow and fall off in the fall, so the smiley face is best seen at this time of year,” Rasmussen said, reports Oregon Live.

How can you see the giant smiley face

Fortunately, the giant smiley face is easy for motorists to see while driving on Oregon 18 between Willamina and Grand Ronde, about 65 miles from Portland.

The best time to see the giant smiley face is in autumn when the pine needles turn yellow. However, don’t worry if you can’t see the face this year.

Rasmussen says the giant smiley face will be visible every fall for the next 30 to 50 years. That’s when the area will be harvested again.

While you’re thinking about fall colors and road trips, be sure to also read our fall travel content:

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