On A Sunny Winter Saturday Morning ...
… we embarked on a few leisurely hikes through Southeast Portland’s most enchanting trails. Our journey began with the longest trail, the Bluff Trail at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, which offered amazing views of the Willamette River and its surrounding wetlands. Afterward, we checked out the Chrystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, where we enjoyed one rhododendron coloring the landscape. We continued along the Reed College Canyon trail, winding through the verdant forest with its tranquil ambiance. Our day concluded with a homage to the past by strolling through the historic Lone Fir Cemetery, a serene oasis adorned with towering trees and tombstones that whispered tales of bygone eras.
Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, Portland’s First Urban Wildlife Refuge
Oaks Bottom proved to be a spectacular green gem in Southeast Portland! Finding a beating green heart where wildlife thrives in an urban area is always a pleasant surprise. Standing on the Sellwood Park overlook, you can see how close downtown Portland is! Portland does a great job mixing up urban areas and nature!
Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge is Portland’s “first dedicated urban wildlife refuge” with wetlands, meadows, and forests. The area came to life when it was cut off from the river in the early 20th century by railway tracks. It was used as a Portland Memorial Mausoleum and a construction waste landfill until 1988. It then became officially protected as Oaks Bottom. Today, Oaks Bottom offers a home to beavers, frogs, deer, and over 120 species of birds. Portland’s official city bird, the blue heron, resides here!
Chrystal Springs Rhododendron Garden & The Reed College Canyon Trail
The Chrystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is also one of Southeast Portland’s jewels. Formerly owned by the mayor of Portland, William S. Ladd, in the 1800s, it is approximately 10 acres. The mayor gave the garden its name, Crystal Springs Farm. In 1950, it opened as a rhododendron test garden.
The garden’s design and architecture are stunning. It has lagoons, gentle hills, stairs, waterfalls, bridges, and gravel paths meandering through the garden. There are many benches to sit and admire the flowers, wildlife, and scenic views. Since we saw only one blossoming, we must return in early spring to repeat this endearing stroll to see many more rhododendrons in full color.
Just across from Chrystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, we discovered Reed Canyon and Reed Lake at the heart of Reed College’s expansive campus. This serene oasis is home to Reed Lake, the city’s oldest naturally occurring lake, and a 28-acre watershed accessible via two pedestrian bridges and a land bridge. As part of the Crystal Springs watershed, this tranquil haven feeds the Crystal Springs Creek with some of the coldest and cleanest water in the region. Reed Canyon and Reed Lake serve as a wildlife oasis, providing a refuge for various birds, turtles, muskrats, nutria, and beavers amidst the urban landscape.