Homesteader gives up farming for his rock gardens
Petersen Rock Garden is a tourist attraction located seven miles southwest of Redmond and three miles north of Deschutes Junction. The site was developed by Rasmus Petersen. Rasmus Christian Petersen was born in Odense, Denmark, on July 21, 1886. He came to the United States when he was 17.
He arrived in Central Oregon in 1906 and started clearing land for a homestead near the area known as Pleasant Ridge located between Bend and Redmond. He eventually obtained rights to 250 acres that included some water rights. He raised alfalfa, potatoes, wheat and rye.
Petersen began collecting rocks in 1935 from the surrounding region. During the next several years, he began constructing a large rock garden.
His friends admired it and brought others to see it. He had almost four acres of rock garden that included buildings, doll house castles, fountains and ponds with bridges. He began collecting rocks of all kinds from Central Oregon, including agate, obsidian, petrified wood, lava rock and jasper. He used his own labor to construct the elaborate structures.
At first, he did not charge for visitors to come see his garden, but as the years passed, he realized he would have to give up farming and devote all his time to the gardens. He sold off most of his farmland and began to make more intricate rockeries. Peacocks were brought to the site and allowed to roam freely.
By 1949, it was estimated that more than 100,000 people visited the attraction, and by 1950 nearly 200,000 came to the site. The rock garden became so popular that the Sawyer View Master Company began selling Petersen Rock Garden slides.
He was eventually forced to place small contribution boxes around the property to help pay for up-keep of the gardens. His rock garden continued to be a popular visitor site in Central Oregon for several years. It had a period of inactivity and disrepair, but it continues to be a tourist attraction.
Petersen died on Aug. 3, 1952. He is buried in Redmond Memorial Cemetery in Redmond.
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