Highway Shoe Trees Bring Color to the Road
Driving along Highway 97 from Bend to Redmond, it’s almost impossible to miss the colorful shoe tree on the east side of the road. The barely-alive juniper stands tall with dozens of shoes of all shapes, sizes and colors adorning the branches for onlookers admiring in wonderment.
In the United States alone, there are an estimated 76 shoe trees situated along major highways and thoroughfares. And, as with most shoe trees across the United States, there’s very little known about the origin of the Highway 97 shoe tree. There is, however, some symbolism in what’s known as ‘shoe tossing’ and why the shoes end high up on those branches. Some of these trees are dedicated for high school graduates, tossing up their old and worn footwear before heading off to college. Some trees are covered with hanging combat boots worn by soldiers who have finished their call of duty.
The Highway 97 shoe tree holds a random mix of snow boots, kid and adult shoes, some with written messages on them. There are whispers that shoes from loved ones who have passed away also hang in memory. While some residents have said that the shoe tree is an eye sore, most people say that it’s become an accidental art installation for travelers.
Sadly, the original Highway 97 shoe tree, located about half way between Bend and Redmond, fell down in early 2016, seemingly because of weather and weight. A new shoe tree has emerged closer to Bend city limits and within a year and a half it has collected almost as many shoes as the original.
The fallen original shoe tree is still visible to drivers, however the new one has clearly made its debut as a part of our high desert landscape.