Category Archives: History

AMERICAN WAR HERO – Rex T. Barber April 18th – 74th Anniversary of Operation Vengeance


You can visit Rex T. Barber’s memorial at the Peter Skene Ogden Wayside on Hwy 97, just north of Terrebonne. Ranger staff will be onsite Tuesday from 11 – 2 pm to answer questions.

Rex T Barber :

Col. Rex T. Barber WWII Flying Ace

United States Air Force Colonel Rex T. Barber

Colonel Rex T Barber (1916 – 2001) served in the United States Army Air Corps in World War II and came home to Culver, Oregon a war hero.  If you’ve driven on Hwy 97 between Redmond and Madras, Oregon you’ve traveled over the Rex T. Barber Memorial Bridge.  His memorial is located at Oregon Parks & Recreation Department’s Peter Skene Ogden Wayside in Terrebonne.

Monday, April 18th is the 73rd Anniversary of Barber’s Victorious Bombing Raid that brought down Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.

Rex T Barber Memorial High Bridge Over the Crooked River Gorge, Culver, OR Photo Credit:  Trip Advisor

Rex was born and raised in Culver, Oregon by his parents Charlotte F. Barber and Col. William C. Barber.  He received his bachelors degree in agricultural engineering from Oregon State College and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

Barber received his commission as a U.S. Army officer and his pilot’s wings on October 31, 1941. He joined the 70th Pursuit Squadron, which arrived at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, in December 1942. Flying a Bell P-39 Aircobra, he scored his first victory by downing a Japanese bomber. Upon transfer to the 339th Squadron, he began flying P-38 Lightnings and claimed two Zero fighters.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto served as Commander in Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy and was Japan’s foremost military leader and planned the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941.  Yamamoto was on America’s Most Wanted List.  On April 18, 1943, Lieutenant Barber  participated in Operation Vengeance. Intelligence sources had learned that Yamamoto would be flying in a “Betty” bomber (torpedo bomber aircraft) on an inspection tour of Japanese bases in the northern Solomon Islands.

Betty Bomber (left), P-38 (right)                 Photo Credit:

The shooting down of the bomber carrying Yamamoto, the commander of the Japanese fleet, was a triumph of military intelligence and flying skills.  Historian Donald P. Bourgeois credits Barber with the sole kill of Yamamoto’s aircraft. In 1991, Barber and Captain Thomas George Lanphier, Jr.  were officially credited with half a kill each in Yamamoto’s bomber after the Air Force reviewed the incident. Barber also shared a second Betty destroyed on the same mission. In 2003, Barber was credited by the Governor and Legislature of Oregon with the sole kill after an inspection analyzed the crash site and determined the path of the bullet impacts, thereby validating Barber’s account and invalidating Lanphier’s claim.  However, despite numerous appeals, the U.S. Air Force refused to reverse its 1991 ruling giving each pilot half credit for the kill.  Donald B. Rice, then the secretary of the Air Force, said in 1993: ”Historians, fighter pilots and all of us who have studied the record of this extraordinary mission will forever speculate as to the exact events of that day in 1943. There is glory for the whole team.”

Captain Thomas Lanipher (left), Lt. Rex Barber (right)  Photo credit:  MacArthur Memorial Museum

After his tour of duty ended in June 1943, then-Captain Barber requested a return to combat. Late that year, he joined the 449th Fighter Squadron in China, still flying P-38s. He claimed three further Japanese planes probably destroyed and damaged, but he was shot down on his 139th mission, bailing out near Kiukiang on April 29. He was rescued by Chinese civilians, who treated his injuries and escorted him to safety five weeks later. At the end of the war, Barber attained the rank of major and commanded one of America’s first jet squadrons.   He retired as a Full Colonel in 1961 with a Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, a Purple Heart and several air medals.

Upon his military discharge, Barber returned to Culver, Oregon, where he lived with his wife, Margaret for the next forty years. Rex and Margaret had two sons,  Rex Jr. and Richard.  He worked as an insurance agent and, at different times, served the City of Culver as mayor and judge.

He was a strong supporter of Little League Baseball, and often helped out local youth. He was actively involved in numerous service organizations until his death at Terrebonne, Oregon. His son, Rex Jr., is quoted as saying that his “afterburner just flamed out on him.”

Rex Barber                                                           Photo Credit:  Oregon Live

You can visit Barber’s Memorial located near the south end of the bridge, at the Peter Skene Ogden Wayside, Terrebonne, Oregon.

Monday, April 18th from 10 am – 2 pm volunteers will be onsite to direct visitors to the memorial and answer questions.

The Island, a National Natural Landmark

The Island is majestically placed between the Deschutes River and Crooked River where they enter Lake Billy Chinook.

The Island is majestically placed between the Deschutes River and Crooked River where they enter Lake Billy Chinook.

The Island is a peninsula with steep vertical cliffs on three sides, that rise 700 feet above the Crooked and Deschutes Rivers.  It measures about 208 acres on top. Due to the steep cliffs that surround it, the Island has never been grazed by livestock, except for one season of grazing by sheep in 1921. It also has not suffered from any sizable wildfires in the last century.  As a result, it contains one of the United States’ last remaining undisturbed communities of two native vegetation types: western juniper – big sagebrush-blue bunch-wheatgrass and western juniper-big sagebrush-bitterbrush.

The Island is significant in several ways.  This geologic feature is part of the Deschutes Formation which began forming about 11 million years ago, as alternating layers of basaltic lava, stream sediment, and volcanic debris flowed into the area from the Cascade Range.  Erosion by the Deschutes and Crooked rivers; as well as wind have continued to form and erode the plateau we see today.  It was a powerful cultural location to local Native American’s.  It also possesses exceptional value as an illustration of the Nation’s Natural Heritage and contributes to a better understanding of the environment.  

In order to preserve the integrity of the site, the Island is designated a Research Natural Area by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 1986.  In 1997, the BLM closed the Island to the public; permits may be issued to educational institutions and conservation groups seasonally.  Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, designated it as one of nine National Natural Landmarks in Oregon.

In 2011, the Island formation at Lake Billy Chinook was dedicated as a National Natural Landmark.

The Island at Lake Billy Chinook was dedicated as a National Natural Landmark in 2011.

Rangers Steve Bifano, Chris Rodgers, and Jay Walters located the perfect rock in which to set the National Landmark plaque this spring.

If you are driving toward Deschutes Camp, on the left side of the road, near the Petroglyph Rock pull off area, you will see a trail going back towards Group Camp.  Hike about a hundred feet and you will find the plaque.  Park Staff intend to install a bench for visitors in the future.


Halloween Animals We Love to Fear 1

Check out the Cove Rattler each week this October for an ongoing series of Halloween Animals We Love to Fear.  Each week a different animal will be featured that you will find at The Cove and around any good haunted house.

You know, the cool animals that can be just too cute for words until Halloween comes and then we are afraid of them.  You will find that those “evil, blood sucking, monsters” lurking around every corner in October offer us many benefits, they may even save you a lot of money or save your life!



Long ago we made up stories to explain the unexplainable – often with a few flaws in logic.  Now we make up stories to entertain ourselves.  Masterful storytellers, like  Bram Stoker (Dracula) and Edgar Allen Poe (The Raven) and movie writers/makers like Alfred Hitchcock (The Birds), J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter) and Don Jakoby (Arachnophobia) can spin powerful yarns that cause a chill to race down your back.  Even Disney Movies starred villainous vultures, ravens, owls,wolves, snakes, cats and mice.

So let’s demystify some common misconceptions.

Week 1 – BATS



The Truth About Common Myths:  Bats are not blind, they do not get stuck in your hair and death is not coming if they fly around your house three times. More importantly they do not turn into vampires (much to the disappointment of millions of Twilight fans).

Among the least appreciated but most beneficial of mammals, bats are a vital part of entire ecosystems – and worth literally billions of dollars to the world economy. They are also the mammal capable of self-flight.

Local bats in Central Oregon are micro bats. They are generally small, nocturnal (come out at night), insectivores (eat insects), use echolocation and yes, they do sleep upside down. Bats provide natural pest control, resulting in less pesticide use and less crop damage.  Some bats can eat 800 – 1000 mosquitoes in an hour!  The Pallid Bat can eat scorpions!

Even the most feared, the Vampire Bat, the only mammal that feeds entirely on blood, only laps up a couple of tablespoons of blood – typically from cattle – a day. Never fear, the good news is that they live in Central and South America.
vampire bat

  • If you need a few more reasons to rethink your position on bats:
  • Humans obtain 80 different medicines from plants that rely on bats for survival.
  • Bats can slow the spread of West Nile Virus
  • The vampire bat has saliva that can be used to prevent heart attacks in humans.
  • Bat Guano is a very rich, organic fertilizer for your garden.
  • NASA used bat guano in explosive charges used to deploy antennas in Mercury and Gemini capsules.

Remember, come back next week to see how flies in to visit…

Messages in the Rocks #3 – Crooked River Petroglyph!

Rocks are like little history books – sometimes what they’re made of can tell us a lot, and sometimes they record other kinds of history for us!

Here’s a photo of a very special rock at the Cove Palisades. It’s saying something – can you figure out what it’s telling us? I’ll give you a hint – the messages are in another language!


Read the rest of this entry

A Trail of Tremendous Treasure

Have you visited the amazing, spectacular, outstanding Tam-a-Lau trail yet?

She’s a doozy, but she’s worth it! In the first mile, you’ll gain 600 feet of elevation, so be prepared with plenty of water, good hiking shoes, and an early start. (Early morning is one of the best times to take photos as well!)

Winding up the cliff side on this path will take you through a spectacular boulder field. “Tam-a-Lau” means “place of big rocks in the ground” in the Sahaptian language of the Plateau tribes, and references this area. It’s tempting to climb on these enormous rocks, but it better protects them (and you, from rattlesnakes, black widows, and scorpions!) if you don’t.

Tam trail

Once atop the canyon rim, you’ll get an unbelievable view of the surrounding area. You’ll see the southern end of The Island, a protected area of the Cove Palisades a special gem of Oregon, and on a good viewing day you’ll get breathtaking views of Jefferson and Hood!

Island Tam

If you’re lucky, or you time it right, you’ll also get a beautiful wildflower show. This lovely yellow bush is rabbitbrush in bloom. (That’s Mt. Jefferson in the background.)

jefferson rabbitbrush

There may also be some close encounters with lizards, eagles, or wild Turkey Vultures, one of the coolest birds on planet Earth! They love sitting on the electric poles or soaring lazily on the columns of warm air rising up from the cliffs.



If you make it to the top, why not do the whole loop? You’ll be rewarded with unbelievable views of the Island, lake, and canyon. If you really flex your powers of observation, you may even spot mysterious leftovers from homesteaders, like huge rock piles and weirdly-pruned junipers!

Tam rock pile

weird tree

Hunting the High Desert


The Cove’s newest interpretive ranger Nicole unveiled her very first program last week.  The program was called Atlatl: Man’s First Compound Weapon!  Visitors were very interested in learning about the features of the Atlatl, the tools that were used to create the weapon, and human survival as of 30,000 years ago.


To reference the Pleistocene era, the interp team developed a very cool life-sized baby mammoth to chuck tennis balls at.  The “Chuck-it” toy is often used to throw balls to your dog at the park, but incorporates the same kinetic science behind the Atlatl.



Those interested got to try their hand at throwing the Atlatl dart in an open field.  The program gave great perspective on the challenges that early humans faced to hunt, and how creativity, innovativeness, and stealth made the most excellent hunters.


Many Atlatl darts were made with an obsidian arrowhead point.  Obsidian is sharper than a steel scalpel?  It can also fly 90-100mph.  The atlatl dart is flexible and stores a great amount of energy when you throw it.

DSC_0770 DSC_0771

Ranger Nicole’s Atlatl program and other great events will continue through Summer 2013, so check the Park Programs page to find out more details!

::: This will be Ranger Talia’s last post as a ranger with the Cove Palisades State Park, as she is hitting the trail.   You can continue to follow her photography adventures at her personal blog Trees and Mountains.  She has greatly enjoyed posting about park happenings, facts, and features.  A year (and 5000 hits) later, we want to thank those of you who regularly follow, and hope that you will continue to read the Cove Rattler as the reins are passed to the next park naturalist.  We hope you continue to enjoy the Rattler, memories at the Cove, and Oregon State Parks! :::


“Be like a flower, turn your face to the sun.” – Kahlil Gibran

Park Programs Page

Hello Followers and Friends!

Just a quick update to let you know that we just added a new section to our blog: Park Programs.  This page will display a schedule of our up-and-coming Interpretive programs at the Cove Palisades State Park.  Check in on the page monthly to view the fun programs our park has to offer!  Click on the schedule image to view it full-sized, and hope to see you around the park.  🙂

More posts to come!


Ranger Talia and the Interpretive Team



Island Fever

The Island is majestically placed between the Deschutes River and Crooked River where they enter Lake Billy Chinook.

The Island is majestically placed between the Deschutes River and Crooked River where they enter Lake Billy Chinook.

Towering in the heart of The Cove Palisades is the park’s most remarkable features, an area called the Island.  From many viewpoints, this “Island” looks to be a giant (I mean, enormous!) pile of rusty basalt rocks with some sprinkled Juniper on top.  The terrain to the very highest appears treacherous, leaving behind a mystery of what could possibly live at the flat-top.

The Island, as viewed from the Interpretive Office at Cove Palisades.

The Island, as viewed from the Interpretive Office at Cove Palisades.

The unique species that live on the The Island are truly what makes the landmark unique and special, and in a few ways, unlike any other place on this very earth.  First, let me start off by clarifying that The Island, though appearing like an isolated body of land in the center of the lake, is in fact a peninsula.  On the south end, the landform meets up with the Crooked River Peninsula, but this side tends to hide behind the mighty Island if you are viewing the landform from most sections of the lake.  So why call it “The Island” if it’s really a peninsula?  The early homesteaders (late 1800’s to early 1900’s) nicknamed the piece of land the Island due to it’s appearance, luster, and value to them.  They enjoyed recreating on the piece of land, and at one point even herded sheep at the very top.

Today, the treacherous trail used to get to the top of the island (more or less a scramble), is now closed and for good reason.  Increase of visitation, establishment of trails, and introduction of non-native species led to the closure of casual recreation use in 1997.   After years of research and monitoring, it has been determined that the island provides a unique, undisturbed environment for multiple rare and unusual species. These species include one of the last remaining stands of undisturbed (and what some consider) native Western Juniper that have not adapted to have both male and female parts.  This means that many of the Juniper on the island possess only cones or only berries, not both.  In the high desert of Oregon, you will often find juniper trees that have both cones and berries, making it easy for them to cross-pollinate/reproduce and invade the landscape! A good reason we see them EVERYWHERE!

Certain Western Juniper on the Island inhabit all male or all female characteristics.

Certain Western Juniper on the Island inhabit all male or all female characteristics.

Another awesome species to live on the Island is super cool and rare form of woven-spored lichen, and there are less than 20 populations known in the Pacific NW.  It loves to thrive on decomposing matter.

The Island hosts the unusual Striped Whiptail Lizard (Cnemidophorus velox), an amazingly cool lizard that has very cool striped markings and colorful blue tail.  It is believed that this lizard may have made it’s way to the Island and the Cove Palisades State Park by catching a ride on someones car years ago.  You can see this lizard zipping around (they are fast little buggers!) the park in the Spring and Summer months.


Last July, I managed to get on the list for the annual Island Medusa-head pull. Medusahead (Taeniatherum Caputmedusae) pose a threat to the ecological integrity of the island, and they are a noxious weed that loves to take over.  A selected group of representatives from multiple land management agencies (including USFS, BLM, Oregon State Parks, and more) were granted the special opportunity to visit the island to pull these weeds, and were properly trained on how to leave no trace and step in places that would not be harmful to the environment.  View the slideshow below for a few photos from this noxious weed-pulling extravaganza!

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In May 2012, the Island was recognized by the National Park Service as a National Natural Landmark.  A grand ceremony was held for the unveiling of the plaque that recognizes the landmark, deeming it sacred for it’s cultural, historical, and ecological value.  For more information visit this website and view the PDF on the Island guidelines.

The keynote speakers at the Island National Natural Landmark Ceremony and the unveiling of the plack.

The keynote speakers at the Island National Natural Landmark Ceremony and the unveiling of the plaque.

Please note that the trail to the Island is closed and that you may view the Island from many viewpoints in the Cove Palisades State Park.  We are so lucky to have such a sacred piece of land at the heart of Lake Billy Chinook!

Lurking Past

October is here, and it’s time to take a great big “Aaaaaah!” sigh of relief and accomplishment for the completion of the Interp teams 2012 Summer Season.  What a fun, FUN summer!  With lots of hard work and laughs we developed many new programs for the Cove to demonstrate history, natural resources, and more and were pleased with our turnout.  We are excited to continue to improve all of our programs so next summer they are even more enticing, entertaining, and informational!

We took a vote, and the teams favorite program of the summer was “Lurking Past”.   The Cove Palisades State Park has a really stellar homesteading history, but history can sometimes be a little dry.  So, we tried our best to come up with a way to tell the Cove’s homesteading story but turning it into an interactive presentation, many of the Cove staff with parts to play!

The story is told through the voice of “Stella”, the Cove’s mysterious and mythical Sturgeon that lurks in Lake Billy Chinook but no fisherman have been able to catch till this day.  Yes, the name “Stella” for our beloved sturgeon was inspired by a Marlon Brando film.  Stella swims under boats and docks and listens to fisherman who’s fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers have fished here.   She has noticed mysterious objects way, deep down at the bottom of the lake and she has often wondered what they are and how they got there.  These objects include orchard trees, remenants of many special buildings, and tall landforms that were popular for pioneer picnicking.  An important piece of State Park’s history is also hundreds of feet underwater.  The audience will unveil the mystery of what these objects are and the crazy turn of events that got them submerged, likely forever.

Fred McCallister and his wife (Played by Dave and Heather) try to catch a big fish for supper whilst reminiscing on early days in the Cove.

We hope that you will join us next summer for one of our Friday or Saturday evening presentations!  Due to popular demand, we plan on havinng Lurking Past play at both the Deschutes and Crooked River amphitheatres in 2013, so both campgrounds get the opportunity to view the program.  See you next year, and bring the whole family!  We will have the room with our brand new Crooked River Amphitheatre benches, overlooking the sunset over Lake Billy Chinook and Mt. Jefferson.

View from the new Crooked River Amphitheatre

Audience members at Lurking Past enjoy the new Amphitheatre.

The Cove Palisades Interp Team would like to thank you for visiting the Cove during Summer 2012 and enjoying our programs! We hope to see you next year! 🙂

The Cove Rattler


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