How A Labor Of Love Grew Into An 'Enchanted Forest' In Oregon

How A Labor Of Love Grew Into An 'Enchanted Forest' In Oregon

6:25pm Aug 09, 2018
A scene from Storybook Lane features The Mad Hatter from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
A scene from Storybook Lane features The Mad Hatter from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Samir S. Patel / Atlas Obscura
  • A scene from Storybook Lane features The Mad Hatter from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

    A scene from Storybook Lane features The Mad Hatter from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

    Samir S. Patel / Atlas Obscura

  • Roger Tofte opened the Enchanted Forest in Turner, Ore., in 1971, after spending seven years building the family-run theme park. The 88-year-old stands in front of one of his first creations, the castle at the entrance to Storybook Lane.

    Roger Tofte opened the Enchanted Forest in Turner, Ore., in 1971, after spending seven years building the family-run theme park. The 88-year-old stands in front of one of his first creations, the castle at the entrance to Storybook Lane.

    Samir S. Patel / Atlas Obscura

  • Susan Vaslev, 62, is the oldest of Tofte's four children and helps run the Enchanted Forest these days. She also performs in an Irish band at the park. "If you have a vision, you just keep working at it, bit by bit by bit, and eventually, it will get done

    Susan Vaslev, 62, is the oldest of Tofte's four children and helps run the Enchanted Forest these days. She also performs in an Irish band at the park. "If you have a vision, you just keep working at it, bit by bit by bit, and eventually, it will get done

    Samir S. Patel / Atlas Obscura

  • Derek Vaslev, Tofte's 30-year-old grandson, works in the shop. He describes his grandfather as very exacting, and very old school. They butt heads sometimes. But, Vaslev says, "I've grown to love it and really appreciate all the work my grandpa's put in."

    Derek Vaslev, Tofte's 30-year-old grandson, works in the shop. He describes his grandfather as very exacting, and very old school. They butt heads sometimes. But, Vaslev says, "I've grown to love it and really appreciate all the work my grandpa's put in."

    Samir S. Patel / Atlas Obscura

  • The Big Timber Log Ride is the biggest log ride in the Northwest, according to Tofte.

    The Big Timber Log Ride is the biggest log ride in the Northwest, according to Tofte.

    Samir S. Patel / Atlas Obscura

  • Along Storybook Lane, one of the park's original features, visitors encounter nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters like Hansel and Gretel and Humpty Dumpty.

    Along Storybook Lane, one of the park's original features, visitors encounter nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters like Hansel and Gretel and Humpty Dumpty.

    Samir S. Patel / Atlas Obscura

  • The first ride at the Enchanted Forest was the Ice Mountain Bobsled roller coaster, which opened in 1983.

    The first ride at the Enchanted Forest was the Ice Mountain Bobsled roller coaster, which opened in 1983.

    Samir S. Patel / Atlas Obscura

  • Roger Tofte in front of his first creation, the Castle, at the Enchanted Forest in Turner, Ore.

    Roger Tofte in front of his first creation, the Castle, at the Enchanted Forest in Turner, Ore.

    Samir S. Patel / Atlas Obscura

Summertime is for road trips. Atlas Obscura and All Things Considered are traveling up the West Coast, from California to Washington, in search of "hidden wonders" — unique but overlooked people and places.

Driving on Interstate 5 in Turner, Ore. — about an hour south of Portland — it's hard to miss the towering road sign, topped by a waving Humpty Dumpty: "Enchanted Forest Theme Park. Next Exit."

The park's attractions fill the hillside just off the highway — but it wouldn't exist without the dedication of one man.

Roger Tofte grew up wanting to be an illustrator in the mold of Norman Rockwell. Instead, he found himself working as a draftsman for the Oregon highway department.

It was during a family road trip with his wife and kids in 1963 when inspiration struck. Tofte remembers seeing roadside amusement parks that were "just plywood and there wasn't much to them so I kinda started dreaming up what I'd like to do."

Tofte returned home, made a $500 down payment on 20 acres of wooded hillside, and started building, sometimes one cement bag at a time.

For nearly a decade, Tofte worked in isolation, sculpting figures from fairy tales and nursery rhymes: Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater, the Seven Dwarfs, Little Red Riding Hood. He built each one by hand.

The Enchanted Forest finally opened in 1971. Tofte says 75 people visited the first day; 1,000 came the next Sunday. A couple of years later, Tofte quit his day job to focus full time on the park.

These days, more than 100,000 people visit the Enchanted Forest each year, according to the Tofte family. It's grown to include a roller coaster, a log ride and a comedy theater troupe. Three generations of the family now help keep the park thriving.

"It's really rewarding," says the 88-year-old Tofte, "especially seeing all these families come in, and so many of 'em will stop me and thank me for doing this."

The key to realizing your dreams, he says, is follow-through.

"It's not something that you just sit around and hope it's going to come true," he says. "It takes a lot of sacrifice. It takes a lot work and effort."

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