The Poplars Ranch in Silver Lake, Oregon
The Poplars Ranch History

Alan Parks and son, Dan (age 5) at the ranch
Alan Parks and son, Dan (age 5) at the ranch

“It takes a rugged personality to live in a pioneer country.”

--Alice M. Parks, June 6, 1945

AMERICANA! A slice of life in Oregon has gone on for four generations at the Poplars Ranch. Farming and ranching in this vast and arid high desert country began at the Poplars Ranch in 1926 when Henry and Alice Parks came to the area. A unique geological landscape, the Parks’ were determined to make a successful life here.

Fort Rock, Oregon was discovered long after the many family farms were established in the rich, lush, fertile river bottom valleys of the mid-1800s. Henry M. Parks (1872 - 1945), a mining engineer and his wife, Alice, past dean of women at Iowa State College were introduced to the Fort Rock valley around 1920. Just an irrigation water well started it all. Henry, director of Oregon Bureau of Mines and Geology at the time, visited the Fort Rock basin in 1920 when four test wells were drilled to determine whether ground water was available for irrigation. Fort Rock would become home to the Parks’. In 1923, Henry left the bureau to devote his life to the Fort Rock Development Company and the newly established Poplars Ranch. Alice was happy to know water was available when she arrived to her new home in the Fort Rock basin. Named after the many trees Henry and Alice planted at their homestead nearly one hundred years ago, the Poplars Ranch, Inc. continues to prosper today.

When Henry was introduced to the Fort Rock valley by a fellow geologist, they pioneered the idea of irrigating the area by drilling wells and pumping from the substantial aquifer they believed was just 50 feet below the valley floor. His original plan encompassed developing the Fort Rock property consisting of 17,000 acres of farm land as well as a hydroelectric project planned for Pringle Falls on the Deschutes River near La Pine. La Pine is located 50 miles from the Poplars Ranch. Henry and Alice Parks originally purchased 600 acres surrounding the #2 test well in Fort Rock proving that irrigating the dry, sandy region would be productive. With water abundant from the ground well, Alice got busy planting lawn, flowers, and poplar and elm trees. This was considered impossible by area homesteaders at that time, and Alice proved them wrong.

The Great Depression developed hardship for the family, changing the ambitious land development plans into a struggle to survive. Plans of the hydroelectric project and dairy industry ideas were replaced with 3000 laying hens and a small number of beef cattle. The family sold eggs to logging camps and grocery stores in Bend, Oregon, eighty miles away.

When son of Henry and Alice, Merritt “Bud” Parks (1912-2004) announced to his parents he was to be married to Helen Barrow of Iowa in 1945, his mother, Alice, wrote a heartfelt letter to Miss Barrow. Alice’s words describe life in Fort Rock well, “It is a country you will either love or hate, so it is probably better to find out first how it affects you. I love this country myself, better than any place I’ve ever lived. I think the thing I like best about it, is the creative possibility it has. We came out here when there was nothing but sagebrush all around us. Not even a house, only a wonderful irrigation well. Out of that desert land we have carved a very productive ranch and a cattle range. The contrast is quite remarkable. I think we all have a certain amount of creative instinct and love to make something out of nothing. It might only be taking a useless garment and fashioning it into a stylish and good looking dress, or taking a child and guiding and helping him to become a fine useful person, or a piece of barren land and creating home. A person feels he is working hand in hand with God.”

Bud and Helen Parks followed the tradition of farming in the challenging, non-mild Fort Rock valley. Bud was instrumental in getting electricity to the area in 1955. Bud and Helen’s sons, Alan and Bill helped on the ranch as youngsters. Alan, after marrying wife, Laura, took over management of the ranch when he, his wife and children, Dan and Allison returned from his career in Portland in 1981. Developing more irrigated land, improving the quality, quantity and the marketing of the hay, Alan and Laura still, today, manage the daily operation of the ranch along with son, Dan. “It’s a place and lifestyle you can’t leave. This ambition of ranching is in my blood. I wouldn’t change careers for anything else, I love it!,” says Alan Parks. “Dan’s knowledge and the ability to improve the management and genetic selection in the cow herd, has contributed to the present and future of our success.”

A descriptive woman, Alice Parks, said it all in her early writing. Today, in the center of the alfalfa hay capitol of the Western states, the Poplars Ranch produces some of the best alfalfa and grain hay in the entire western (region). Also, noted for their registered Hereford cattle, the Poplars Ranch continues to produce award winning bulls. A product of Americana, homestead America on the Poplars Ranch!

We invite you to visit our ranch. It is our desire to give you an inside look at our productive Hereford bulls for sale, and the quality of hay inventory. Please write or give us a call to schedule a tour.


The Poplars Ranch
Copyright © 2007 
All rights reserved.

Revised: 2012

The Poplars Ranch logo

Dan Parks - Livestock Manager
The Poplars Ranch
59234 Fort Rock Road
Silver Lake, OR 97638
Alan Parks - Owner