Opal Creek Wilderness & Scenic Recreation Area; Tourist Mapping for a Educational-Land Stewardship Organization

Erik Strandhagen
Department of Geography
University of Oregon


The topic I wish to present is tourism-recreational mapping in the “Format 2” approach. I undertook a unique and challenging cartographic project for Friends of Opal Creek, a non-profit organization. The Friends of Opal Creek maintain and steward the Opal Creek Educational Center. The complex was built in the rejuvenated historic mining town of Jawbone Flats, in the heart of a 35,000 acre old-growth forest watershed of the Opal Creek Wilderness, within the Willamette National Forest. The area is situated on the west slope of the Oregon Cascade Mountains and is one hour east of Salem and two hours from Portland. The Opal Creek Wilderness and Scenic Recreation Area were created with legislation that was passed in 1996. The wilderness and scenic recreation area boundaries went into effect in 1998, few maps reflect these changes. The Friends of Opal Creek organization played a major role in the establishment of the wilderness and recreation area, and now provides input on the management of the area.

The map product’s design had two major purposes. The map needed to reflect The Friends of Opal Creek’s mission to “inspire understanding of ancient forest ecosystems through education, interpretation, and to work with others to steward the natural and cultural values of the Opal Creek Wilderness and Scenic Recreation Area”. The map design also is intended to show the infrastructure of roads, trails, facilities and the dynamic mountain landscape. The overall purpose is to raise public interest in the recreational opportunities in the area and the activities of the non-profit organization.

The data originated with Willamette National Forest G.I.S. data sets, and U.S.G.S. quadrangles. The data was compiled and edited for in ESRI ’s ArcMap. The compiled data was exported to Adobe Illustrator to create the final product. The raster image of the hill-shade was created in Adobe Photoshop. The design of the raster image was to distinctly show the hierarchy of boundaries, and their relationship to the dramatic landscape. The project required special use of thematic data presentation such as linear displacement, and formulation of unique mimetic symbols. These techniques led to a more informative and pleasing map design to achieve the intended goals.