Tales from an Oregon Wanderer: William L. Sullivan

SullivanBooks.jpgOn a warm night at the Sunriver Nature Center last summer, visitors packed the room and stood outside the door for a chance to listen to the guest speaker. Who were they waiting so eagerly for? Fifth-generation Oregonian and author, William L. Sullivan. There are many people that write about the wonders of Oregon, but few are as prolific. His 18 books cover a variety of topics but he is best known for his travel guides that cover different regions of the state.

As he was introduced to the crowd that night, we were reminded that he had trekked across Oregon many years ago. Sullivan’s account of the 1,000-mile journey from the southwest corner of the state to the northeast corner can be found in his book, Listening for Coyote.

Driving towards Steens Mountain

Driving towards Steens Mountain

He also wrote a book about how he and his wife constructed a log cabin using only hand tools. They lived there for several years and still do so during summer months. Their account of that ongoing adventure can be read in Cabin Fever: Notes from a Part-Time Pioneer.

His lecture last summer focused on hikes and destinations in eastern Oregon. His book, 100 Hikes/Travel Guide – Eastern Oregon, was published in its third edition in 2015. Sullivan tries to visit the places he writes about once every seven years to see if any updates are needed. He stated that half of the hikes he covers are located in eastern Oregon.

Old western juniper tree at dusk

Old western juniper tree at dusk

William L. Sullivan was a great speaker with a good sense of humor. Here are a few tidbits from his talk that might inspire you in your explorations of eastern Oregon:

  • Oregon has more ghost towns than any other state. One hundred years ago, the population in eastern Oregon was much higher than it is today and towns were abandoned as people moved on.
  • There are 15 hot springs in eastern Oregon. They range from small hot pools to resorts with private soaking rooms.
  • The evidence found in areas such as Paisley Lake and Fort Rock indicates people lived there more than 14,000 years ago.
  • There are many ancient western juniper trees in the Oregon Badlands. One has been determined to be at least 1,600 years old.
  • You can drive to an elevation of 9,500 feet on Steens Mountain and, if the weather conditions are right, can see five states from there.
  • Oregon’s first power plant was constructed in Sumpter in 1869. It included ten miles of wooden pipeline and that pipeline was in use until 1969.

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