Forest Park (Portland)

Forest Park (Portland)

Geobox Protected Area
name = Forest Park
native_name =
other_name =
other_name1 =
category_local =
category_iucn =

image_size = 300
image_caption =
etymology_type = Named for
etymology =
country = United States
state = Oregon
region_type = City
region = Portland
district_type = County
district = Multnomah
city_type =
city =
city1 =
location = Tualatin Mountains (West Hills)
lat_d = 45
lat_m = 32
lat_s = 43
lat_NS = N
long_d = 122
long_m = 44
long_s = 10
long_EW = W
location_note =cite web
url = Gnis3|1120882
title = "Forest Park"
date = November 28, 1980
work = Geographic Names Information System
publisher = United States Geological Survey
accessdate = 2008-05-30
elevation_imperial = 718
elevation_round = 0
elevation_note =
area_unit = acre
area_imperial = 5157
area_round = 0
area_note =cite web
title = Forest Park
publisher = Portland Parks and Recreation Department, City of Portland
date = 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-05-27
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established_type =
established = 1948
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management_body = Portland Parks and Recreation Department
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map_caption = Location of Forest Park in Oregon
map_locator = Oregon
website =

Forest Park is a municipal and public park in the Tualatin Mountains (West Hills) west of downtown Portland, Oregon. It is the largest urban forest reserve in the United States.cite web
title = Forest Park
publisher = Portland Parks and Recreation Department, City of Portland
date = 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-05-30
] The park covers more than convert|5100|acre|km2 of mostly second-growth forest with a few patches of old growth and is threaded by more than convert|70|mi|km of recreational trails. Forest Park stretches for more than convert|8|mi|km on hillsides overlooking the Willamette River.

As early as the 1860s, civic leaders sought to create a natural preserve in the woods near Portland. Landslides in this part of the West Hills induced settlers to abandon their property or to give land to the city, which gradually acquired the acreage for a park. Formal dedication of convert|4200|acre|km2 for Forest Park in 1948 made it one of the largest city parks in the U.S. In 2007, The Trust for Public Land put the park in 19th place in size among parks of any sort located within U.S. cities.cite web|date = 2007| url=|title=100 Largest City Parks|publisher=The Trust for Public Land |accessdate=2008-05-30| ]

More than 112 bird species and 62 mammal species are found in the park. The Audubon Society of Portland has an adjacent wildlife sanctuary covering convert|143|acre|km2|1, which includes more than convert|4|mi|km of trails, a wildlife care center, avian exhibits, and a retail store.cite web
title = Trails & Sanctuary
publisher = Audubon Society of Portland
url =
accessdate = 2008-05-27


Canyon and Northwest Cornell Road. [Bishop, pp. 141–48] The West Hills were later covered by wind-deposited silts that become unstable when soaking wet. Stream bank instability and siltation are common, and landslides deter urban development at higher elevations.cite web
last = Knudsen
first = Matt
coauthors = Pentilla, Jeanine; Petersen, Luke
title = Balch Creek Watershed: Good Policy, Poor Performance
publisher = Portland State University
url =
format = pdf
accessdate = 2008-06-03


Prior to settlement by European Americans of the West Hills, the land that became known as Forest Park was covered by a Douglas-fir forest. By 1851, its acreage had been divided into donation land claims filed by settlers with plans to clear the forest and build upon the property. After logging, the steep slopes and unstable silt loosened by heavy rains caused landslides that defeated construction plans, and claims were defaulted or donated to the city. [Houck, p. 117] Civic leaders beginning with the Reverend Thomas Lamb Eliot, a minister who moved to Portland in 1867, sought to create a natural preserve in the woods that eventually became Forest Park. By 1899 his efforts led to the formation of the Municipal Park Commission of Portland, which in 1903 hired the highly-regarded Olmsted Brothers to prepare a plan for the park. They recommended that the city acquire West Hills property to develop a wooded public park. Trails in the park and elsewhere in the city were to form a trail system which later became known as the 40 Mile Loop.

In 1897, a convert|30|acre|ha|adj=on tract along Balch Creek Canyon was donated to the city and later became Macleay Park, a part of Forest Park. [Houck, p. 117] In the 1890s, Frederick Van Voorhies Holman, a Portland lawyer and a president of the Oregon Historical Society, proposed a gift of convert|52|acre|0 that was added to the park in 1939 when his siblings, George F. and Mary Holman, completed the donation. After a feasibility study by the City Club of Portland in 1945, civic leaders supported the project, and convert|4200|acre|km2 were formally dedicated as Forest Park on September 23, 1948. Forest Park is the largest urban forest reserve in the U.S.cite web
title = Forest Park
publisher = Portland Parks and Recreation Department, City of Portland
date = 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-05-30
] By 2000, it covered more than convert|5100|acre|km2 extending along the ridge from West Burnside Street near downtown Portland to above the point where the Willamette River divides into two branches at the southern end of Sauvie Island. [Houck, p. 117] The park covers most of the east face of the ridge and is bounded by West Burnside Street on the south, Northwest Skyline Boulevard on the west, Northwest Newberry Road on the north, and Northwest St. Helens Road (U.S. Route 30) on the east. [Houck, p. 117]

Forest Park is among the largest city parks in the United States. In 2007, The Trust for Public Land put the park in 19th place with convert|4317|acre|km2|0, slightly smaller than its 2008 total of about convert|5100|acre|km2. The trust’s list included state parks, national parks, county parks, regional parks, national wildlife refuges, as well as municipally-owned parks as long as they were in cities. Chugach State Park in Anchorage, Alaska, was in first place with convert|495996|acre|km2|0. The 15 biggest parks on the list all had more than convert|5500|acre|km2.cite web|date = 2007| url=|title=100 Largest City Parks|publisher=The Trust for Public Land |accessdate=2008-05-30| ]


(EPA). [cite web
last = Thorson
first = T.D.
coauthors = Bryce, S.A.; Lammers, D.A., "et al."
title = Ecoregions of Oregon (front side of color poster with map, descriptive text, summary tables, and photographs)
publisher = United States Geological Survey
date = 2003
url =
format = pdf
accessdate = 2008-06-19
Reverse side [ here]
] [cite web
last = Pater
first = David
coauthors = Bryce, S.A.; Kagan, Jimmy, "et al."
title = Ecoregions of Western Washington and Oregon (color poster with map, descriptive text, summary tables, and photographs)
publisher = United States Geological Survey
date = 2003
url =
format = pdf
accessdate = 2008-06-19
Reverse side [ here]
] In its natural state, the forest consists mainly of three tree species, Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar, and smaller numbers of grand fir, black cottonwood, red alder, bigleaf maple, madrone, and western yew. Much of the forest that existed here before 1850 was gone by 1940. The stage of re-growth in the forest depends on when it was last logged or burned. [Houle, pp. 16–23]

In the mid-1990s, about one percent of the total vegetation in the park consisted of grasses, bracken, thistle, and fireweed in sections of the forest cleared two to five years earlier. Another two percent had reached the shrub stage, between three and thirty years old, with small trees dominated by such plants as thimbleberry, salmonberry, and blackberry. Forest areas 10 to 30 years old that contained tall alder and maple trees and smaller conifers accounted for about 20 percent of the park. [Houle, pp. 16–23]

Larger areas were occupied by forests in which conifers had grown taller than the alders and maples. About 50 percent of Forest Park consists of these areas, which are between 30 and 80 years old and in which Douglas-firs have begun to dominate. Another 25 percent of the park contains forests dominated by middle-aged conifers, 80 to 250 years old. In these areas, red alders, which live for about 100 years, have begun to die, and the Douglas-firs, which can live for 750 years, attain heights up to convert|140|ft|m. Under the big trees are shade-tolerant trees such as western red cedar, western hemlock, and grand fir and smaller plants such as Oregon-grape, vine maple, and salal. [Houle, pp. 16–23]

The last forest stage, old growth, is reached after 250 years and includes many snags, downed and dead trees, and fallen logs. Timber-cutting and fires reduced old growth in Forest Park to "almost nothing" [Houle, pp. 16–23] by 1940, and most of the forest has not yet attained this stage. Patches exist near Macleay Park and further west near Germantown Road and Newton Road. [Houle, pp. 16–23]

Among the prominent wildflowers are wild ginger, Hooker's fairy bells, vanilla leaf, evergreen violet, and trillium. [Houle, p. 18] Invasive species include English ivy, European holly, clematis, morning glory, and Himalayan blackberry.cite web |last = Bureau of Environmental Services| title = Habitat and Biological Communities | work = Willamette Subwatersheds: Balch | publisher = City of Portland | date = 2008 | url =| accessdate =2008-06-12] Citizen groups such as the No Ivy League and Friends of Forest Park have engaged in projects to remove ivy and to plant native species, but critics have expressed doubt the long-term maintenance of these changes.


Wildlife in Forest Park is strongly affected by contiguous tracts of nearby habitat that make the park accessible to birds and animals from the Tualatin River valley, the Coast Range, the Willamette River, Sauvie Island, the Columbia River, and the Vancouver, Washington, lowlands.cite web
last = Bureau of Environmental Services
title = Wildlife Communities
work = Willamette Subwatershed: Balch
publisher = City of Portland
date = 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-06-13
] Sixty-two mammal species, including the northern flying squirrel, black-tailed deer, creeping vole, bobcat, coyote, Mazama pocket gopher, little brown bat, Roosevelt elk, and Pacific jumping mouse use Forest Park. [Houle, pp. 36–49] Blue Grouse, Great Horned Owl, Hairy Woodpecker, Bewick's Wren, Orange-crowned Warbler, Osprey, and Hermit Thrush are among the more than 112 species of birds that have been observed in the park. [Houle, pp. 36–49] Amphibian species frequenting the Audubon Society pond include rough-skinned newts, Pacific tree frogs, and salamanders.

Pressure from habitat loss, pollution, hunting, and urban development has reduced or eliminated the presence of large predators such as wolves, bears, and wild cats and has led to increased numbers of small predators such as weasels and raccoons. Roads in the area severely hamper the movement of large animals. Invasive plant species such as English ivy have made the habitat more simple and less supportive of native insects and the salamanders and other amphibians that feed on them.

Trails and roads

More than convert|70|mi|km of trails and firelanes cut through the park, which resembles a tapered rectangle about convert|8|mi|km long and less than convert|1|mi|km wide at its southeastern end near the center of the city and about convert|2|mi|km wide at its northwestern end. Most Forest Park trails are open only to hikers and runners, but several roads and firelanes are open to bicycles or horses or both.cite map
publisher = Friends of Forest Park
title = Hiking and Running Guide to Forest Park
edition = 2003
section = Index Map

Wildwood Trail

The longest trail in the park is the Wildwood Trail, convert|27|mi|km of which is in the park. It is also the longest section of the 40 Mile Loop, a trail network of roughly convert|150|mi|km reaching many parts of the Portland metropolitan area. [Houck, p. 110] The trail runs southeast to northwest from trail marker 0 in Washington Park to Northwest Newberry Road, just beyond trail marker 30 on the ridge above the southeastern end of Sauvie Island. The straight-line distance from beginning to end is about convert|9|mi|km, but because the trail includes many traverses along the canyon sides of small streams, it is convert|30.2|mi|km| long. Of this total, the first convert|3|mi|km lie outside Forest Park.cite map
publisher = Friends of Forest Park
title = Hiking and Running Guide to Forest Park
edition = 2003
section = Index

The trail begins in Washington Park near the Oregon Zoo, a light rail stop, the Oregon Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the World Forestry Center and the Hoyt Arboretum. Blue diamonds placed about convert|6|ft|m above the ground appear on trees along the trail every convert|0.25|mi|km. The diamonds and the mileage markers above them are visible to hikers traveling in either direction on the path. In its first convert|5|mi|km, the trail passes near the Portland Japanese Garden, Pittock Mansion, the Portland Audubon Society wildlife sanctuary, and the Stone House in Balch Creek Canyon.cite map
publisher = Friends of Forest Park
title = Hiking and Running Guide to Forest Park
edition = 2003
section = Stone House
] From this point west, Wildwood Trail runs through forest generally uninterrupted by buildings but crisscrossed by shorter trails, small streams, roads, and firelanes.cite map
publisher = Friends of Forest Park
title = Hiking and Running Guide to Forest Park
edition = 2003
section = City View, Wild-Leif, Heart of the Park, Old Growth, Avenue of Trees, Maple, Big Stump, Hole in the Park

Other roads and trails

Many shorter Forest Park trails, roads, and firelanes intersect the Wildwood Trail at points along its entire length. Leif Erickson Drive, a road closed to motorized traffic, runs at lower elevation than and roughly parallel to the Wildwood Trail for about convert|11|mi|km from the end of Northwest Thurman Street to Northwest Germantown Road. Easements for an oil line, a gas line, and electric transmission lines for the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) cross the park. [Houck, pp. 117–18] In addition to the paved roads that surround the park, it is crossed or entered by other roads including Northwest Pittock Drive, Northwest Cornell Road, Northwest 53rd Drive, Northwest Salzman Road, Northwest Springville Road, Northwest Germantown Road, Northwest Newton Road, and BPA Road.

Works cited

* Bishop, Ellen Morris (2003). "In Search of Ancient Oregon: A Geological and Natural History". Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. ISBN 978-0-88192-789-4.
* Houck, Michael C., and Cody, M.J. (2000). "Wild in the City: A Guide to Portland's Natural Areas". Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87595-273-9.
* Houle, Marcy Cottrell (1996). "One City's Wilderness: Portland's Forest Park", second edition. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87595-284-4.


External links

* [ Audubon Society of Portland]
* [ Friends of Forest Park]
* [ The Forest Park Map by Erik Goetze]

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