Spring has sprung in the Rose City and there’s no better place to enjoy this beautiful weather than Portland’s many waterfront parks and trails. Get outside and take a walk on the banks of the Willamette River.
North Portland’s Cathedral Park is dominated by the beautiful arches of the St. John’s Bridge. Located on the north shore of the Willamette, the park was developed in 1915, when St. John’s was annexed by the city of Portland. This square, one-mile park is made up of grassy knolls and is the perfect place to watch the river traffic heading into Portland or attend the annual Cathedral Park Jazz Festival in late July.
Fun Fact: In 1806, Lewis and Clark’s Corp of Discovery set up camp on the banks of today’s Cathedral Park during the first leg of their expedition’s return trip.
Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade (SE Water Ave & Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97239)
Follow the river into the city proper and you’ll find the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade, a 1.5-mile pedestrian and bicycle path running along the Willamette directly across from Downtown Portland. Originally, it was conceived as an urban renewal project after a 1996 flood washed the area out, but eventually it came to be part of a larger trail loop that connects with Tom McCall Waterfront Park via the Steel and Hawthorne Bridges. The thirteen distinctive markers placed along the esplanade correspond to Portland’s eastside street grid, giving visitors an easy way to orient themselves as they walk along the river.
Fun Fact: One 1,200-foot section of the esplanade is a floating pier, the longest of its kind, that takes you right out onto the river.
Tom McCall Waterfront Park (98 SW Naito Pkwy, Portland, OR 97204)
Portland’s most social park is the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Stretching from the Steel Bridge to the Marquam Bridge, Waterfront Park is a favorite among cyclists, runners, and strollers. Several tourist stops are located in the park, including the popular Saturday Market Pavillion and the Rose Building designed by noted Portland architect John Yeon in 1948. The south end of the park, known as The Bowl, is an informal amphitheater that is home to the annual Rose Festival in June and the Waterfront Blues Festival in July.
Fun Fact: As you stroll along the paved path take time out to visit Founders Stone, a monument to the famous coin toss that decided the city’s name in 1845. City founders Francis W. Pettygrove and Asa L. Lovejoy chose between adopting the names of their cities of origin: Boston, Massachusetts or Portland, Maine. You can see the coin at the Oregon Historical Museum.
McLoughlin Promenade (6 Railroad Avenue, Oregon City, OR 97045)
Further up the river is one of the most beautiful natural features you’ll find in Portland located at the end of Oregon City’s McLoughlin Promenade. Start your 2.3-mile stroll at the Old Canemah Park Trailhead and follow it all the way to the 40-foot tall Willamette Falls, the largest waterfall per volume in the Pacific Northwest. The McLoughlin Promenade ends at the falls, where it overlooks the site of a future urban renewal project that will transform the area into a waterfront park or community center.
Fun Fact: Take a ride down the 90-foot cliff on the Municipal Elevator for a great view of the area, it’s one of only four such elevators in the entire world and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.