Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area:
Surrounded by warehouses and port terminals in North Portland, Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area is one of the region’s best-kept secrets. Take the Interlakes Trail or go by boat to explore one of America’s largest urban wetlands. Either way, you might find beavers, river otters, black-tailed deer, osprey, bald eagles and Western painted turtles. You’ll also find a water control structure that is restoring this network of sloughs, wetlands and forests.
Elk Rock Island:
Elk Rock Island is connected to the mainland by a 40-million-year-old land bridge. The island is accessible at low water at the Spring Park trailhead on SE 19th Avenue and Sparrow Street. Follow the hiking trails that wind around the bay and through the island. Enjoy the natural habitat while remaining on the designated paths to avoid the poison oak.
Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge:
Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, a 140-acre floodplain wetland along the east bank of the Willamette River, which cuts through Portland from the south to the north on its way to merge with the Columbia River as it heads to the Pacific Ocean. Hawks, quail, pintails, mallards, coots, woodpeckers, kestrels, and widgeons are just the start of the list of birds that one might encounter in Oaks Bottom. Scores of great blue heron are found in the area because of its proximity to one of the rookeries on Ross Island.
What does it overlook? A massive train yard. But it’s still a gorgeous park, with sports facilities and a climbing tree straight out of Swiss Family Robinson. It’s also home to the North American Organic Brewers Festival. And also the best train-yard views in Portland.
Council Crest Park:
The water tower that now stands atop Council Crest used to be a 77-foot-tall wooden observatory, part of the Council Crest Amusement Park which operated from 1907-1929 and was torn down in 1941. From the top of the hill, one can see five mountains in the Cascade Range: Mt Hood, Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, Mt Jefferson, and Mt Rainier. In addition, the park boasts a fantastic 180-degree view of Portland and surrounding towns.
Laurelhurst Park is a gorgeous example of the City Beautiful Movement in landscaping. In 1919, the park was named the most beautiful park on the west coast by the Pacific Coast Parks Association, and it was the first city park ever named to the National Register of Historic Places. A stroll through the park and surrounding neighborhoods make a perfect afternoon outing.
Pier Park, located in North Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood, is home to a public pool and expansive park area equipped with a seasonal play fountain, play structure, covered picnic area, baseball, soccer, and softball fields, tennis and basketball courts, paved walking paths and an accessible restroom. The park also has an impressive 11,000 square foot (1,021 square meter) skate park with a 20-foot (6.1-meter) diameter full-pipe.
Here, you’ll find the Oregon Zoo, Hoyt Arboretum, the World Forestry Center, the International Rose Test Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Children’s Museum, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Surrounded by 46-acres of natural beauty, no other place in town offers a more breathtaking view or revealing glimpse of Portland’s past than Pittock Mansion. It has better views of the city than any other Portland park, and it’s free to tour the grounds. Tours of the sprawling mansion cost $10.00.
Cathedral Park (pictured):
Cathedral Park lies in North Portland nestled on the banks of the Willamette river. Walking beneath the towering cathedral-like footings of the St. John’s bridge with the sun rays streaking through the morning mist, and the trees of Forest Park swaying in the distance as a cool breeze passes through them, is an amazing experience.
Tanner Springs Park:
Located 20ft above what was once Couch Lake in the Pearl, this urban wetland lets you walk across the water on zig-zagging paths surrounded by a massive art installation involving 368 railroad tracks.
Mt. Tabor Park:
Portland’s Mt. Tabor, a volcanic cinder cone, is a very popular destination and features expansive views of downtown Portland, picnic areas, a dog off-leash area, natural surface and paved paths, a playground, a performance stage, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts — not to mention the picturesque outdoor reservoirs that once held the city’s drinking water.
Forest Park flanks the hills on the west side of the city, just 10 minutes by car from downtown, and overlooks Portland’s main waterway, the Willamette River. This natural getaway, which is the largest wooded urban park in the United States, is filled with more than 70 miles of walking and hiking trails. The Macleay Trail is an interesting one: it passes an abandoned stone house, which makes a great photo op!
Powell Butte Nature Park:
Powell Butte, an extinct cinder cone volcano, rises near the headwaters of Johnson Creek – an urban creek with remnant populations of native salmon and steelhead. The park is comprised of 611 acres of meadowland and forest.
Tryon Creek State Park:
Just minutes south of downtown in southwest Portland, Tryon Creek is a once-logged forest that has naturally regrown into a lush stand of red alder, Douglas fir, big leaf maple, and western red cedar, with more than 50 species of birds and many small mammals residing in the Park. Trout, too, reside in the creek.
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden:
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is a unique seven-acre garden containing an outstanding collection of rare species and hybrid rhododendrons, azaleas, and other lesser known ericaceous plants, as well as many companion plants and unusual trees. This internationally recognized garden is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year. April through May, when the azaleas and rhododendrons are in full bloom, the garden is spectacular. A spring fed lake surrounds much of the garden, attracting countless waterfowl which nest and feed in this natural habitat. In fall and winter, trees and shrubs add their own color and interesting structure.
IT’S A GOOD LIFE!!
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