Patch of ground in Willamette Valley occupies storied past
By JOHN SCHMITZ
For the Capital Press
CAMP ADAIR, Ore. -- It's hard to imagine that two pastoral cattle ranches operated by Oregon State University here were once ablaze with weapons fire.
But that's the way it was during World War II, when Camp Adair was a combat training center. The post was also home to several Army divisions, the landscape chosen because it is similar to that which soldiers would experience in France and Germany.
As you roam the 57,000-acre site, several eerie remnants of war's heavy footprint are still visible, with some of the former gun emplacements and barracks foundations partially visible through the dense overgrowth.
Camp Adair was named for Oregonian Henry Rodney Adair, a West Point cavalry officer who was killed fighting Pancho Villa's forces in 1916. Villa's renegade forces staged raids into New Mexico, attacking and killing U.S. citizens. Gen. John Pershing and his troops were sent into Mexico in pursuit of Villa.
During World War II Camp Adair served both as a training and cantonment area, with close to 40,000 troops stationed on the base at any one time. For a while, it also served as a prisoner of war camp for German and Italian prisoners.
After the war the camp was deeded to the state, which in turn gifted it to then-Oregon State College. The college assigned the wooded acreage to the forestry school and the prairielands to the agriculture school.
Today, OSU runs two separate beef cattle operations at the former Camp Adair: the Soap Creek Ranch, which is 1,880 acres, and Berry Creek Ranch, at 1,000 acres.
Approximately 65 percent of the ground on the two ranches, which are now managed by the OSU Department of Animal Sciences and used heavily by students, are open grasslands utilized primarily for forage production.
Each ranch has pastures and separate facilities that are used for research, student projects, classes and general maintenance of the beef herds. Facilities include scales, covered processing areas and hay barns.
While the Berry Creek Ranch has been used in OSU's student-managed, spring stocker program, Soap Creek Ranch has served as a cow-calf operation numbering about 100 purebred Angus and commercial crosses calving in March and April.
But just as the Army has faded into the past at Camp Adair, so too will the Berry Creek and Soap Creek ranches, said Jim Males, recently retired head of OSU's Animal and Rangeland Sciences Department.
"We're talking about cutting the cow herd down to 30 (purebred Black Angus) cows, making it just a teaching herd, and have them here closer to campus."
The move, which likely will find the cattle housed on the Wilson Farm near campus, after the sheep flock there has been reduced, is planned for the spring of 2012.
"The campus herd will serve several purposes," said Males. "We'll have beef production classes, where we teach beef management. We also will use the herd in our livestock evaluation courses."
Live cows, both beef and dairy, are also used to teach artificial insemination to students.
OSU plans to retain ownership of the Camp Adair property and lease parcels for various uses.