The Spruce Goose, Happily Nesting in Oregon

“Another aviation museum, really?”

That was Lori’s reaction when I told her about the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. Regular readers recall that I regularly drag Lori to aviation museums. Forcing your spouse to go to museums they don’t like is one of the great pleasures of travel.

“Yeah, the Spruce Goose is there,” I argued.

“No, it’s not, that’s down in Southern California,” she countered. “I’ve seen it.”

“It says right here they have the Spruce Goose,” I said, stabbing the website on my iPad with my finger.

She contemplates my rather convincing finger-stabbing. “Hmm, did they make more than one of them?” she wonders.

I look up at her. “I think they call it The Spruce Goose because they made only one of them. Otherwise the ads would say, ‘Come see A Spruce Goose’, and that just doesn’t sound right.”

And so it went. Probably in an ill-fated attempt to prove me wrong, she agreed to go to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, and I managed to spend a day at one of the finest aviation museums around, second only in my experience to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

I’ll save all you traveling wives the indignity of losing this argument: the Spruce Goose, the only one Howard Hughes made, is indeed now in McMinnville, Oregon at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Yes, it was in Long Beach, California for a few years, but in 1993 some guy climbed into the pilot’s seat, cranked it up, and took off bound for Hawaii; amazingly it flew, but directional controls were a bit off and he wound up in McMinnville instead.

The Spruce Goose
THE Spruce Goose


That’s not funny. It was a serious business getting the H-4 Hercules from it’s Disney-owned display in California to Oregon. Disney had acquired the plane from the Aero Club of Southern California and had kept it on display in Long Beach next to the Queen Mary. Many who have seen the aircraft saw it during this time frame. When Disney scrapped plans to build an indoor roller coaster in the plane’s cargo bay (it was to be called “Spruce Goose Mountain”), they asked the Aero Club if they wanted the plane back. The club said, “Gee, we’re fresh out of Spruce Goose hangars”, but they arranged to move the plane to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum where it would be displayed in perpetuity in rural Oregon. This created the dual benefit of freeing up space in Long Beach for Carnival Cruise Line to have a cruise ship terminal and giving people a reason to visit rural Oregon (just kidding! There are lots more reasons for people to visit rural Oregon, like wine).

So the plane was carefully disassembled by the Seven Dwarves and shipped on barges up the west coast and down river to within a few miles of the museum to the tune of Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, where it was painstakingly reassembled and restored. Kudos to the Aero Club of Southern California, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, and especially the restoration team.

The Spruce Goose is a marvel of WWII era engineering and worth seeing. It’s the centerpiece, obviously, of the Evergreen museum, but the museum would be noteworthy even without it: this travel blogger would have gone even without the Spruce Goose (though likely without his spouse). Many of the earlier aircraft are replicas, but they have a respectable collection of originals.

Lori Admiring Aircraft in Evergreen Aviation Museum collection
Lori “Enjoying” A Day at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum


The Evergreen museum’s unique quality, at least of the aviation museums we’ve seen lately, is their space museum: don’t skip it only to see the Spruce Goose. The space museum is in a separate building across the parking lot. It’s an extremely thoughtful museum, laid out in chronological order of manned space flight. It seamlessly, and in a non-political or nationalist way, blends both American and Soviet contributions throughout and after the space race.

While it was impressive to see full-size rockets and boosters and the like, what I was most enamored with was this replica of a Mars Exploration Rover. Remember the Spirit and Opportunity rovers a few years back? They’re a lot bigger than they looked on the news.

Mars Exploration Rover

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