Christmas Valley, Oregon: Creepy Site that Means Something or Quite Possibly…Green Energy?

June 29, 2009

Satellite views like this one are what make conspiracy folks and lovers of the mysterious have “squee” moments.

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In Oregon’s remote Christmas Valley, coming upon this military installation of debated purpose is certainly eerie. The Internetty consensus is that the establishment has something to do with Over-the-Horizon radar or some such–at least according to More from

The US Air Force’s over-the-horizon-backscatter (OTH-B) air defense radar system is by several criteria the largest radar system in the world. Six one-million-watt OTH radars see far beyond the range of conventional microwave radars by bouncing their 5-28-MHz waves off the ionosphere, an ionized layer about 200 km above the earth. It was developed over 25 years at a cost of $1.5 billion to warn against Soviet bomber attacks when the planes were still thousands of miles from US air space.

Most sources I’ve seen agree that it is of a Cold War bent and is no longer operational (although the same sources list its completion date as 1990, a bit late for catching Kruschev in the act or whatever).

I have driven near it with Mr. Pencil on an occasion or two, but we’ve never found particularly good access to get up close to it. Plus we generally avoid any areas where we might get strafed or bombed if we intrude. But I do find ominous and inexplicable sites in mid-nowhere quite interesting. I think most people do.

Apparently, recent Obama administration legislation has seized upon a new opportunity for the site, as seen in this March, 2009, article:

The two senators also wrote a $475,000 provision that will allow a truck-climbing lane to be built on Interstate 84 near Three Mile Hill and $380,600 to investigate the possibility of using an old military facility in Christmas Valley for generating solar, wind, and possibly geothermal- power.

I know of a few other creepy and abandoned sites in Oregon. There are the ghost towns (like Blitzen and Hardman), and isolated chemical-industrial things like the nerve gas hummocks near Umatilla or the cement complex at Lime. Do you have any favorite, creepy spots (especially those that perk the ears of the conspiracy folks)?


  1. Mark says:

    You’d probably be interested in a few of my favorites:

    And in a similar vein, although not used as a radar system but used (supposedly!) to alter the atmosphere:

  2. Chris says:

    I’ve wondered about the old back scatter site too. It would be interesting to see what it looks like close up. How tall are towers (if there are towers)? Perhaps there is something secret going on there.

  3. Carolyn says:

    My visit to Christmas Valley was 30 years ago, but will never forget the vast, open, lonely feeling and all those tumble weeds. Even more creepy was the cemetary we visited that held what must have been half the town, that was killed in a fire at the grange hall during a Christmas party…anyone know more about it?

  4. Billy Ray says:

    I have been to the Backscatter site several times. It is basically just a big fenced off area with a few buildings. No towers any more. There is a BLM road where you can drive right up to it and take a look. The State of Oregon and the Military are trying to figure out a way to get the property from the federal government to develop into a solar farm. Nothing that scary about the site …. the local people are way scarier.

  5. B H says:

    I’ve been to the backscatter site multiple times also. It’s pretty impressive the amount of money they dumped down the drain to develop this station and then shut it down. Your tax dollars hard at work! Nothing scary about it, and Billy Ray is right, the locals are way scarier. They are fighting the development because it will “ruin” their vistas. Are you kidding me! These folks are perfectly happy in their “shacks”, eeking out a peripheral fringe lifestyle. Development bad, beat down jethro-mobile & single wide trailer shack good.

  6. RB says:

    ^^The previous two replies are examples of douchery existing on the west side of the Cascades. Nothing like good old fashioned generalizations based on perceptions.

  7. RB says:

    And my comment above pertained to the generalized comments made by the previous two posters about Christmas Valley residents. I disagree with the stands taken by north Lake residents on varied renewable energy development issues, but there’s no call to make douchey comments about people just because you may disagree with their stance. Grow the eff up.

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