Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute at Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute just concluded its sixth year, with final presentations by the 22 students from across the state who joined the program. This year, students from LaGrande to Salem, and including members of the Grande Ronde and Umatilla Tribes, spent a week expanding their knowledge at the lovely new Cottonwood Crossing Experience Center.

The students signed up for five different focused activities during the week: Biology, Wildlife, Solar Energy, Writing, and Health/Nutrition.

The Wildlife group studied Golden Eagles and Big Horn Sheep and was able to find three herds of Big Horn Sheep (I’m terribly jealous having looked for them every trip for four years and not finding any!)

The Solar Energy Group built benches with solar panels, allowing visitors to charge their electronics while in the State Park.

The Writing Group wrote short stories about the State Park from the perspective of a Golden Eagle and a hive of bees.

The Health & Nutrition group studied the impact of time in nature on heart rate, stress and anxiety, and learned the importance of hydration on big hikes.

The Biology group studied the changes in the small macroinvertebrates in the river and plants along the riverbank and left careful notes so that future classes can return to the same location and make note of changes.

Along the way, they also built hand-powered pressure washers (read long range squirt guns) to prepare for their rafting trip, only to be disappointed that it was too cold to go rafting. But the designs they drew up were quite attractive, and I’m sure they will have fun with them as the summer goes along!

Seth Miller

Executive Director, Oregon State Parks Foundation