US Capitol Christmas Tree

Help wanted: decorate the tree

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


The Willamette National Forest's Sweet Home Ranger District will be sending one large Capitol Christmas tree and 75 smaller companion trees back to Washington, DC to adorn the Capitol buildings for the 2018 holiday season. That means a lot of decorations! We need your help to create a total of 10,000 handmade ornaments to send to our nation's capital to decorate these Christmas trees. There are several ways to get involved:

Attend an ornament making event

The Willamette National Forest and its partners will be staffing ornament making booths at the following events. We’d love to have you join us! A list of events is below, or can be downloaded as a part of this flyer.

  • Sweet Home Chamber Awards Banquet Dinner** - April 7 from 5-6PM, Sweet Home Boys and Girls Club
  • Oregon Ducks Football Spring Game** - April 21, Moshofsky Center, Eugene
  • Oakridge Tree Planting Festival – May 5th from 11AM - 3PM, High School Track
  • Free Fishing Day - June 2 at 10AM, Timber Linn Park (Albany), Detroit Lake, Willamette Fish Hatchery (Oakridge)
  • Sweet Home Safety Fair - June 23 at 9AM , Sweet Home Police Department
  • Emerald (EMS) Baseball Game** - July 25 from 6-9PM, PK Park, Eugene
  • Sportsman's Holiday - July 14 at 10AM, Sweet Home High School
  • Oregon Jamboree** - August 3-5, Sweet Home High School
  • Sweet Home Community Health Fair - August 18 from 10AM - 2PM, Sweet Home High School Activity Center
  • Oregon State Fair** - August 25 and September 1 from 10AM – 5PM , Salem
  • Harvest Fest - Saturday October 13 from 10AM - 2PM Sankey Park, Sweet Home

** indicates events that require an entrance fee

Host your own event!

We are in search of groups, schools, organizations and individuals who'd like to host their own 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree ornament making events. Any ornaments made will help us reach our goal of 6,500 small ornaments and 3,500 large ornaments to adorn the Capitol Christmas trees in Washington DC!

Download this brochure for specifications and themes. For ornament ideas, check out our photos and instructions posted here. Keep in mind these are just ideas; feel free to get creative!

Ornaments should reflect Oregon's cultural heritage, historical events or people and our natural resources. Let's show the nation why we are proud to be from Oregon! Ornaments must meet the following specifications:

Small Ornaments Large Ornaments
    4-6 inches in size
    Reflective & Colorful
    Lightweight & Durable
    No Logos
    9-12 inches in size
    Reflective & Colorful
    Lightweight & Waterproof
    No Logos
All ornaments must be received by October 1, 2018. They can be dropped off in person at any one of our drop locations located here or mailed to the Sweet Home Ranger District at: 4431 Hwy 20, Sweet Home OR 97386.

For more information, or to ask additional questions, please contact Stefanie Gatchell or Nancy Shadomy at the Sweet Home Ranger Station: 541-367-5168 or

Winter on the Willamette

Wednesday, March 07, 2018


Winter fun can be found from every direction! Santiam Pass and Willamette Pass are the main winter recreation areas for winter sports on the forest. Activities radiate from the sno-parks in each area. You can find cross-county ski trails, snowmobile trails, and places for sledding and snow play.

Four campgrounds are open year-round: Shady Cove Campground on the Detroit Ranger District, Cougar Crossing Campground and Lookout Campground on the McKenzie River Ranger District, and to the south Indigo Springs Campground on Middle Fork Ranger District.

Three rustic cabins are available to rent in the winter months: Warner Mountain Lookout and the Fish Lake Remount Depot Commissary Cabin and Hall House. There are also several winter shelters for use. Some of the shelters permit overnight stays; some are warming shelters only.

Use our winter recreation map to help you find an area or find areas under each of the winter sports activities listed above.

Know Before You Go!
View tips and resources to help you plan and prepare for your trip to ensure the best possible time for you and others who will be sharing the snow with you.

XC Skiing/Snowshoeing



Oregon to Provide the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in 2018

Friday, January 19, 2018

Sweet Home, Ore., January 19, 2018 – The Willamette National Forest announced today that Oregon has been selected to provide the 2018 United States Capitol Christmas Tree. A gift from the Willamette National Forest and the State of Oregon to the people of the United States, the tree will be displayed on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., with a public tree-lighting ceremony in early December 2018.

Every year since 1970, the U.S. Forest Service has provided the Capitol Christmas Tree. This year, the Capitol Christmas Tree will be cut from the Sweet Home Ranger District. Seventy smaller companion trees will also be sent to Washington, D.C., to decorate government buildings and public spaces this December. Additionally, Oregonians will contribute 10,000 handmade ornaments, to be created throughout 2018. These ornaments will celebrate the state’s cultural history and people, landscapes, natural resources, and fish and wildlife.

The theme for the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree is “Find Your Trail!” in recognition of two 2018 anniversaries: the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act, and the 175th commemoration of the Oregon Trail.

“We are thrilled to be delivering the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, and we invite all Oregonians to be a part of this special experience throughout 2018—from making an ornament to exploring the Willamette National Forest with family and friends—in search of the perfect tree to send to Washington, D.C.,” said Nikki Swanson, Sweet Home District Ranger, Willamette National Forest.

“There is a rich history of Oregon’s forests providing for the needs of Oregonians. The Willamette National Forest provides recreational opportunities, fishing, hunting, mushroom harvesting, firewood, minerals, wood products and, of course, Christmas trees. We hope this yearlong Capitol Christmas Tree event inspires people to explore the National Forests across Oregon, and to ‘Find Your Trail,’” she continued.

The last time Oregon was chosen to provide the Capitol Christmas Tree was in 2002, when a tree was selected from the Umpqua National Forest.

“We are very honored to have been chosen to provide the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, and to share some of our state’s incredible beauty with the rest of America,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown. “Majestic, towering conifers have long stood as an icon of Oregon’s magnificent forests. This tree will symbolize our rich natural resources, our deep Native American heritage, and the people of Oregon, who are known for their independent spirit, innovation and love for our state’s diverse landscapes.”

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree’s Journey to Washington, D.C.

In November 2018, a modern-day wagon train carrying the Christmas tree and ornaments will begin its eastward journey from Sweet Home, following the path of the Oregon Trail in reverse. The wagon train will make stops in a variety of communities across Oregon and the country before arriving in Washington, D.C. The travel route, schedule and special events will be available at

The Willamette National Forest has partnered with Choose Outdoors and Travel Oregon for the Capitol Christmas Tree project, and a host of partners, sponsors, and volunteers will contribute funding and thousands of hours to help make ornaments and transport the tree from Oregon to Washington, D.C.

Opportunities for Public Participation Throughout 2018

Oregonians and Oregon visitors are invited to participate in U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree activities around the state during 2018, including helping to find the perfect tree to go to Washington, D.C.

  • Find the tree! The public is invited to hike and drive the Willamette National Forest—outside of the City of Sweet Home—to look for the perfect Capitol Christmas Tree. To submit a potential candidate tree, GPS the location, snap a photo, and send the submission to, or drop your information off at the Sweet Home Ranger District Office. Guidelines: The perfect tree is 65 to 85 feet in height with a conical shape that is visually pleasing from all angles. The tree must reside on U.S. Forest Service land in the Sweet Home Ranger District, preferably close to a road that will allow for access for a semi-truck and cranes to harvest the tree. Submission deadline: May 2018. Don’t forget to share your adventures on social media (Facebook and Twitter) with the #USCapitolChristmasTree, #FindYourTrail and #ItsAllYours hashtags.
  • Join an ornament-making event or host your own. Ten thousand handmade ornaments will adorn the Capitol Christmas Tree and the 70 smaller companion trees. There will be ornament-making events throughout Oregon in 2018. The first event will take place on January 20 at the Boys & Girls Club in Sweet Home (1 p.m.; 890 18th Ave.). The Willamette National Forest also invites schools, churches and community groups to contribute ornaments. There will be templates and instructions posted on the website and social media. For a schedule of events and further details, visit
  • See the Capitol Christmas Tree as it travels along the Oregon Trail in November 2018. The travel route, schedule and special events will be available at

To get involved: email us here.


Willamette National Forest Unveils Symbol Representative of Oregon for the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Friday, January 19, 2018

Oregon’s Willamette National Forest was selected to choose and supply the People’s Tree for 2018 for the grounds of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The Willamette National Forest, together with Travel Oregon, has designed alogo that captures the beauty of the State of Oregon and the Willamette National Forest, with its snowcapped mountain, fields of green and lush forests. The trail leading to the tree symbolizes the adventurous spirit of Oregonians since early settlers first traversed the Oregon Trail. The logo encourages modern-day adventurers to #FindYourTrail in the Willamette National Forest.

Reflections on The People's Tree

Friday, December 08, 2017

Written James Edward Mills, U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Team & founder of The Joy Trip Project

On the day after the Lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree flags across Washington D.C. were at half mast. Each year we recognize the lives of those lost on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and our entry into the Second World War. Let us never forget the sacrifice of the brave men and women who gave their lives in service to our country. We must honor their memory by continuing each and every day to dedicate ourselves to the ordinary deeds of common citizenship that bands the America People together toward the creation of a more perfect union. To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what the people can do for you, but what you can do for your people.”

The People’s Tree is a symbol of the combined efforts of common folks doing their jobs in service to their fellow citizens. Hundreds of forest rangers, loggers, law enforcement officers, truck drivers, crane operators, restauranteurs, hotel staffs and school teachers from the State of Montana and across county made this gift possible. Many donated their time and effort free of charge, while others in the performance of their professional duties, worked longer hours, spent late nights and early mornings on the road for a month away from their homes and loved ones. This holiday season let’s spare a smile or a kind word to those who work in the service of others. Take a moment to remember that the blessings you enjoy and may take for granted are provided by men and women who take pride in giving you their very best. Can each of us do any less in return?

Have a Merry, Merry Christmas.


Tester Teams up with Bozeman Sixth Grader to Light the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Wednesday, December 06, 2017


Published by Senator Jon Tester, December 6, 2017

(West Lawn, U.S. Capitol) - U.S. Senator Jon Tester kicked off the holiday season tonight alongside Bozeman sixth-grader Ridley Brandmayr as they lit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

"When Senator Tester called my dad and told me, it didn't feel real. It took about five minutes for it to sink in," Brandmayr said. "But it definitely became real tonight and it was an experience I will never forget."

The 79-foot Engelmann Spruce traveled nearly 3,500 miles from Montana's Kootenai National Forest to grace the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building-making stops in 13 Montana cities along the way. As the senior Senator from the tree's home state, Tester was tasked with selecting the tree lighter and helping organize this year's celebration. He asked Ridley after the Bozeman sixth grader lost his right hand in a tragic accident earlier this year. Tester lost three fingers on his left hand in a similar accident when he was a kid.

"This tree has been growing in Montana for decades - enduring brutal fire seasons, and braving harsh winters. It's reached almost 80 feet tall, nourished by Montana's rich soil and sustained by clean mountain water." Tester said. "This tree is more than a symbol of the natural resources the Treasure State has to offer - it represents our shared history, intertwined with our outdoor heritage and our Montana values."

The event was co-hosted by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and also featured the other two members of Montana's Congressional delegation. On hand were dozens of folks who helped shepherd the tree from Montana to D.C.

"The selection and delivery of the Capitol Christmas tree from the Kootenai National Forest has been an extreme honor for the Forest Service and State of Montana," said Sandi Mason, the Kootenai Forest's Capitol Christmas Tree project leader. "We have met a ton of fantastic people across this great country of ours and this will be a journey that we will never forget. We are proud to display the tree, along with all of the ornaments and tree skirts that were handmade by people from all over the State."

Others in attendance included Larry Spiekermeier of Whitewood Transportation, the man who drove the tree across nearly a dozen state over the course of a two-week journey. Spiekermeier is a two-time Montana Motor Carriers "driver of the year" who hails from Plains, Montana. He will celebrate a half century on the road next year.

The tree was decorated with nearly 3,000 handmade ornaments from folks across Big Sky country. It was flanked by a custom tree skirt quilted by Shawna Crawford of Lewistown and topped by a five-foot tall copper star commissioned by the Washington Companies of Missoula, fabricated by Split Mountain Metal of Belgrade, and lit by Western Montana Lighting of Missoula.

Since 1970, a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. The last tree to hail from Montana was a Subalpine Fir from the Bitterroot National Forest in 2008. The Kootenai National Forest also provided "The People's Tree" in 1989.

Watch a livestream of the event HERE.


Tale of a Tree and a Star

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Posted by Robert Hudson Westover, U.S. Forest Service, Washington D.C. in ForestryNov 29, 2017

For many in the D.C. area, the arrival of the towering Capitol Christmas Tree means the holiday season has begun. Every year local residents and tourists from all over the country, as well as delegations from the state that provides the tree, come to view the official lighting of what is fondly referred to as “the people’s tree” on the West Lawn of Capitol Hill.

Since 1970 the U.S. Forest Service has provided the national Capitol Christmas Tree, and every year it’s different and exciting in literally thousands of ways. This year’s tree, a 79-foot Engelmann spruce cut from the Kootenai National Forest in Montana, will be adorned with thousands of ornaments handmade by the children on Montana.

The tree called Beauty of the Big Sky began its cross country sojourn in early November and has made 21 stops at towns and cities along the way including the states of North Dakota, Minnesota, and Kentucky.

And in a first, the tree will have a star built in the same state. In August, organizers reached out to The Washington Companies, a Missoula-based conglomerate that includes Montana Rail Link, mining company Montana Resources, and environmental remediation business Envirocon.

Architect of the Capitol with members of the Montana Congressional Delegation speaking as well as USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan presides over the ceremony, which will begin at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 6th on the West Lawn of the Capitol.

As is the tradition, a child from the home state will flip the switch to illuminate the tree. Ridley Brandmayr, an 11-year-old Bozeman boy who lost the fingers of his right hand in an accident this summer, has been chosen by Montana Sen. Jon Tester to light the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree at the outdoor ceremony.

The tradition of a U.S. Capitol Christmas tree dates to the 1960s. In 1964, a 24-foot Douglas fir was bought for $700 from a nursery in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, and placed on the West Front lawn. That tree died after a severe storm and root damage, but the tradition of a tree on the Capitol grounds continued with the USDA Forest Service providing a tree from one of its forests.

A tree in the air
A great deal of expertise is required to safely position the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in place. The next stop for the dangling colossus will be the West Lawn. (Photo credit: Robert Westover, U.S. Forest Service)

US Capitol Christmas Tree Seven Lincoln County Students to See Lighting of Tree, Meet with Officials

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


From The Western News, November 28, 2017

As the the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on Monday ended its journey from the Kootenai National Forest to Washington, D.C., seven juniors and seniors from Lincoln County’s three high schools were eagerly anticipating their upcoming trip to see it being lit.

The students — Hunter Leighty, Allie Coldwell and Katelyn Downey of Troy High School; Sidney Stevenson and Will O’Connell of Libby High School; and Ashlyn Carvey and Mason Davis of Lincoln County High School in Eureka — won the honor of witnessing holiday history by winning the Kootenai National Forest Capitol Christmas Tree photo contest.

In addition to watching the tree lighting 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, the students will attend a reception hosted by Sen. Jon Tester at the United States Botanic Garden and a reception hosted by U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, among other items.

For Leighty, the trip will be the second time he’s traveled outside of Montana and his first visit to the nation’s capitol.

“All of this is pretty cool and a little nerve racking,” he wrote via Facebook message. “I can’t wait.”

Carvey learned about the contest online while working for a Youth Conservation Crew over the summer, which expanded her knowledge of the Kootenai National Forest. She said she “thought it would be cool to win a trip to (Washington), D.C.,” a city she, too, has never before visited.

“I’m very excited to see a big city coming from a small town and hope to see more of the city and maybe go to the mall,” she wrote.

When Downey learned about the contest last spring, she said she “immediately knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.”

“Going to the Capitol Christmas Tree lighting is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I figured that our area is so beautiful that anyone could have a shot at winning the photo contest,” she wrote. “If all I had to do was get out, enjoy what the Kootenai National Forest has to offer, and take some pictures, I thought, ‘Why not?’”

Another first-time visitor to Washington, D.C., Downey wrote she is “super excited and grateful for the opportunity” and “would love to get out and see a little bit of the history that D.C. has to offer” if they have time outside of what’s already planned.

Stevenson was encouraged to enter the contest by her mother, Troy District Forest Ranger Kirsten Kaiser, who accompanied the trip for part of its journey east.

“It is such a great opportunity, so I couldn’t pass it up,” she wrote. “And I have never been to (Washington), D.C.”

Davis, who worked alongside his classmate Carvey in the Youth Conservation Crew, “was motivated to enter the contest because I just started getting into photography, and this seemed like a good place to start displaying my photos. (And) I’ve never actually been to the East Coast in general, so going right to Washington will be a really cool experience.”

Coldwell and O’Connell could not be reached by deadline.

The students’ winning photos were matted and framed by Devi McCully of Frames Unlimited and will be sent to Washington, D.C., where County Administrator Darren Coldwell said it will be presented to the Speaker of the House and the Capitol Architect.

“From there it’s final resting place will be in the Sidney Yates building” where the Forest Service is located, Coldwell wrote in an email.


I'm the truck driver delivering America's Christmas tree to the US Capitol - and I couldn't be prouder

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Posted from FOX News, November 26, 2017 - by Larry Spiekermeier with Whitewood Transport in Plains, Montana.

I’m one of 3.5 million professional truck drivers on America’s roads working to safely deliver the goods that keep our lives and economy moving, but on my latest trip, my truck is longer and heavier than usual and I couldn’t be prouder. With a 79-foot-tall Engelmann Spruce in tow, I’m the driver who’s been safely traveling across the country to deliver this year’s Christmas tree to the U.S. Capitol.

I’ve been hauling for 49 years through 49 states and am proud to say I’ve traveled 3.5-million accident-free miles. But this is the proudest job I’ve had so far in my career. For over 50 years, a Christmas tree has been put on display at the Capitol each holiday season, and this year, I’ve been proud to be a part of it, along with Whitewood Transport, who was selected from over 500,000 trucking companies in the U.S. to haul the 2017 tree to Washington.

On November 13th, I departed Montana for a two-week adventure to make the 3,460-mile journey from the Kootenai National Forest to our nation’s capital. Day after day, I’ve been rolling across the country, with stops in Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, where thousands of people have gathered to take part in this annual and festive journey.

I am grateful and proud of my job. Trucking really moves America. The industry provides one out of every 16 jobs. Some may be surprised to know that 80 percent of our communities in America rely solely on trucking for the delivery of their goods that keeps us running. The trucking industry also makes investments to improve safety and protect the environment, providing billions of dollars to develop the most modern trucks to keep us all safe, which is our highest priority.

For me, the best part about trucking is being able to see America. Most jobs don’t offer that opportunity. Luckily, on this journey, I’ve had the privilege to provide thousands of people across several states the opportunity to view the beautiful spruce tree before it makes its arrival to Washington. As I travel from one corner of our country to another, I have been inspired at how the nation’s Christmas tree is truly “the people’s tree.”

As I reach Washington and anticipate the lights that will shine from the grand holiday tree onto the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, I am reminded of the true value that trucking provides to America as well as the unique and special opportunities it provides. This season, the holiday gifts under the tree, the sweaters on your back and the food on the kitchen table wouldn’t be possible without trucking. I am proud to help deliver the holidays.


Cutting the People’s Tree

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


From Forest Business NetworkEditor’s Note: The following is a speech that Pete Tallmadge delivered on the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Tour when it visited Troy, Montana.

When Kirsten Kaiser, the Three Rivers District Ranger, called and asked if I would consider being the sawyer for the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, I just about said no. To tell you the truth, I immediately thought of three or four other sawyers that she should call instead.

As loggers, the majority of us love our work because of the solitude it affords. Limelight is uncomfortable.

Personally, I prefer the predictability of the average, mundane day. I love my job and I love it’s routine. All of this is slightly out of routine, wouldn’t you say?

Fortunately though, Kirsten’s call came as a voicemail and I had the chance to discuss this unexpected opportunity with my family before giving her an answer. The consensus was a resounding “yes, you have to do it,” so I called her and accepted the invitation.

To tell you the truth, I really didn’t anticipate the level of hoopla surrounding the cutting. I mean it’s just one tree, right? But as I’ve walked out the events of the last week it’s become very clear that it’s about more than just a tree.

It’s about opportunity…its about pride…its about our timber heritage…and our community.

I have been given the opportunity to not only represent myself and my family, I’ve been given the chance to represent the timber industry, this community, and the great state of Montana.

We have been given the privilege of providing the “People’s Tree” to the rest of the country.

This tree is a gift from you…this tree is a gift from us…this tree is a gift to everyone who calls the United States of America home.

Now I realize it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but let me be the first to say…"Merry Christmas."