Enchanted Forest: Oregon’s One-of-a-Kind Amusement Park
Over Four Decades-Worth Of Weird And Whimsy
“When the kids were small we were traveling back to Minnesota to see some relatives and we saw a few parks, nothing much to them, and I had a lot of art experience, so I thought I’d put something together.”
Roger Tofte, the 88-year-old creator of Enchanted Forest, worked on the park for seven years before the doors opened to the public. And put something together he did. Tofte began constructing Enchanted Forest by hand in 1964, working for the highway department by day and working on the park nights and weekends.
Tofte was determined to get his dream to fruition, so he helped finance his endeavor through side jobs, including working as a commercial artist and repairing watches.
“I would run around and deliver watches at the noon hour. I had watches way up to my elbows. I would come out [to the park] until it got dark, then I would go home and fix watches.”
On Sunday, August 8, 1971, Tofte and family opened the doors to the public. “We didn’t have much: the castle, and the little fairyland. We didn’t have the gingerbread house or the three bears. I think it was 50 cents [to enter]. We got started, and each off season we would build.”
Before starting Enchanted Forest, Tofte’s only construction project had been building a swimming pool in his backyard. “We did the pumpkin first, just a small project to get started.” He built his creations out of cement, rebar and plaster. Tofte would employ his friends at the highway department to come help build Enchanted Forest on weekends, but Tofte himself did the finishing work on all the facades in the park.
Today, Enchanted Forest sees so many visitors every year that they have to keep building new parking lots to keep up with demand. The only advertising they have ever done is their sign located on the highway.
Being a bit of a roadside attraction junkie, I discovered the park years before moving to Oregon, in an online forum. Eventually driving past it on the highway when moving to Corvallis, it became my goal to check it out.
The Enchanted Forest
What I love most about Enchanted Forest is that it actually feels like you’re in a forest, which is all thanks to Roger Tofte himself — he comes to the park every morning to trim its foliage. Taking the “baby bear” approach to pruning, he ensures that there is just enough overgrowth to make it feel like you’re actually walking through an Enchanted Forest.
Tofte’s strong aesthetic stands out in the park. Walking through the castle and down Storybook Lane, the classical characters brought to life feel authentic to their origins. Little Bo Peep is tugging at the leash of her stubborn sheep, The Mad Hatter is having a party, and Miss Moffet is hanging out with what can only be described as the most Oregon-looking bearded spider I’ve ever seen.
Getting lost in the Dwarves Cave grants the reward of seeing beautiful dioramas of fluorescent underground pools before finding the dwarves working away. Even though I’m an adult, walking through Enchanted Forest filled me with childlike wonder. And we haven’t even gotten to the rides yet…
Roller Coasters, Log Ride, Haunted House, and More
Ice Mountain Bobsled Roller Coaster was originally created in 1983, but redesigned two years later to accommodate more visitors. Waiting in line, it looked unassuming enough: two covered cars going up, down, and around a fiberglass track. But sitting in the very front on my first ride, I was surprised at how quickly it went downhill after hill and zipped around one giant spiral loop down before returning me back to the station with my brains slightly scrambled.
The cherry on top of the fun awaiting visitors to Enchanted Forest is the log ride. While we waited in line, the attendant handing us ponchos described the ride as “wetter than Splash Mountain.” The ride begins with a scenic float through the forest, complete with a little lumberjack village, which is just long enough to make you forget that you are on a ride and not just having a leisurely jaunt.
The first drop is just a warm up, but pro tip — that’s where the camera is, so make your best “log ride” face. What quickly follows is the grand finale. My compadre behind me let out a scream just as we were going over the precipice, which I eagerly echoed. Soaked despite the poncho, I immediately wanted to do it all over again, but instead decided to rest up over birthday cake ice cream.
Feeling refreshed and slightly drier, it was time to brave the haunted house. I’m not one for scary movies, or scary anything, so I might not be a good judge, but this place gave me the creeps. For some reason my friends made me go first, so I reluctantly turned the knob to the eerie mansion. I think I blocked most of it out of my memory, but I do remember yelping at every noise that I heard, and meeting a cool looking mustached ghost reading from a book of ghost stories.
Apparently I’m not the only one who felt a ghoulish presence at the haunted house, because Tofte let me know that the Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures was recently out filming at the park overnight, doing some ghost hunting. The Ghost Adventures hosts discovered some key information about the history of the area that leads them to believe it’s haunted. The episode is set to premiere June 23 at 9 p.m.
Ghosts aside, me and my crew decided to take a stroll through the English Village and attempt the Challenge of Mondor. I jumped into the chariot, grabbed my laser gun, and realized this was the moment that the Area 51 arcade game prepared me for. The chariot began to move along its track, and Mondor the Wizard informed us that we needed to grab the power from the monsters by shooting the red dots, or something to that effect. Then we fought dragons and goblins, shooting their power crystals with gusto. With what I can only assume is my lightning precision and strong desire to get the day’s top score (I wasn’t even close), I squeezed the trigger on that thing nonstop, pointing it at every red dot I saw, until my arm was tired.
Wrapping Up the Day
We watched an animatronic magpie and its adorable magpie babies dance around on a (food) pie. Tofte’s family has always been involved in the construction and operations of the park, and he informed me that his son taught himself how to make the animatronic creations seen throughout.
We watched the drama of a magical fountain display unfold over pizza, and wandered into a few shops where I found a super badass Ice Mountain tee that I couldn’t live without. Despite having “done it all,” there was one last thing I needed to do: ride the log ride again.
Knowing where the camera was, my friends and I made the weirdest faces we could. The final splash down the big hill left us soaked all over again, ready to hop in the car, turn on the heat, and laugh about our favorite parts of the park all the way home.
Tofte opened the doors to his park 47 years ago, but it’s hard to know if he understood the true impact he would be making on his community for generations to come. When I asked Tofte about what has been the biggest change since opening, he said, “It’s just gotten better over time.”
Enchanted Forest is located at 8462 Enchanted Way SE, Turner, OR 97392. General admission is $12.95 for adults, and $11.50 for children and seniors, plus ride tickets or bracelet costs. Children 2 and under are free to enter. They’re open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For directions, and more information, visit enchantedforest.com.
By Ashley Rammelsberg
Enchanted Forest from a Copycat’s Perspective
Two Thumbs Up, Says “The Lord of All”
I had heard some things about Enchanted Forest prior to my visit. Adjectives like “creepy,” “weird,” and “rinkadink” were being thrown around, which of course led me to believe that this place would be right up my alley. Although I am not usually a fan of theme parks (crowds), when Ashley pitched a story about the park, I couldn’t help but glom onto her idea as an excuse to visit this legendary Oregon institution.
First off, any of you Enchanted Forest haters can heck right off. When Tofte and his family started building this thing in the 60’s, they started with not much else than a cheap plot of forested land, a wheelbarrow, and a few bags of cement. Many thought Tofte was insane, but he continued designing and building until his park, basically a roadside attraction plus a hot dog stand, opened in ‘71.
The original park is Storybook Lane, a trail through Tofte’s interpretation of several classic fairy tales. I was greeted by Humpty Dumpty happily seated on his wall, before walking left to the gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel. The horrifying animatronic witch inside was beckoning Gretel toward the oven, while Hansel looked on helplessly from inside his cage. As I walked on, a family entered the house, their young boy screaming in terror. I can’t blame him. Hansel and Gretel were abandoned in a time of great famine, which might have led to the witch’s cannibalism. Maybe this child was intrinsically horrified at the prospect of being abandoned, cooked, and devoured himself.
Storybook Lane is (to me) a spectacular and immersive work of art. The beauty lies within the tiniest of details: a dog-head inside of a flower, or a portrait of a top hatted violinist with two sets of eyeballs. It pays off to look closely while exploring. The Seven Dwarves’ Mine is particularly incredible: a small jaunt through a dark cave festooned with sparkling jewels, neon green liquid, animatronic dwarves, and a gorgeous soundtrack.
After Storybook Lane, Tofteville awaits: an old west town complete with curious angular buildings, pulled pork sandwiches, and a hillbilly shooting gallery. The Haunted House is accessed from here. Though not objectively very scary, when traversing it with a panicking wife, one tends to panic as well. I am not proud of this. I’ll be back, Haunted House, and this time I’ll be going in alone. Moving on.
Though Ice Mountain (the roller coaster) doesn’t feature anything overly dramatic like loop-de-loops or 100 foot drops, it’s not without its thrills. Many questions floated through my head as I stood in line. How stringent are their safety standards? Is the army of teenagers employed by this park capable of maintaining this ride? Why did I watch so many YouTube videos of roller coaster accidents before I came here? The feeling of an impending and grizzly death only enhanced my enjoyment. For the record, I am, in hindsight, 100% confident that Enchanted Forest maintains this ride to the most stringent of safety standards.
From there, I experienced the best ride ever created: The Challenge of Mondor. This is the most HEAVY METAL of all rides on Earth. After boarding, I was given a gun and challenged by a wizard to blast on the forces of darkness to save the dwarves or elves or whatever. I came face to face with animatronic demons, spiders, and dragons to emerge with a final score that dictated me “The Lord of All.” I will only answer to this title from now on. My only complaint is that this ride’s interactivity distracted me from the fantastic and brutal detail contained therein. I will surely return.
I was unexpectedly enamored with the music of Enchanted Forest. It was all composed and recorded by Roger Tofte’s daughter, Susan Vaslev, and can be heard throughout the park. Her analog synth magnum opus can be experienced at Fantasy Fountains, accompanying a lighted water show. Her talent has not gone without notice; a Portland record label, Wyrd War, has released the park’s music on colored vinyl.
From just one visit to Enchanted Forest, I’m starting to feel an obsession coming on. This place is an epic masterpiece of weird and fun, and the perfect alloy of such to thrill both adults and children alike. The fact that it was built by a man with a dream and his family, rather than some corporate behemoth, lies at the heart of all this charm, and makes it the perfect playground for our weird state.
By Jay Sharpe