Monday, July 17, 2006

Spooky, Mysterious Kelly Butte

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Here are a few photos of SE Portland's Kelly Butte [map], a city park in outer SE portland between Division & Powell, just east of I-205. Very few people know about this place, and it appears the city likes it that way. I visited on a warm sunny afternoon, in the middle of summer, on a weekend, right in the heart of a 2-million-strong city, and saw exactly two other people, plus one dog. They were as surprised as I was to run across other living souls in the park.

The city parks department refers to the area, very briefly, as "Kelly Butte Natural Area". Which I guess is supposed to indicate that there aren't any public facilities here. Not anymore, anyway.

Kelly Butte is visible from downtown Portland and all over the east side, and and is bordered on three sides by some of the busiest roads in the metro area, but it's not really obvious how to get a closer look at it. First you have to find your way to the park entrance. (I used to say "[a] Blackberry with Google Maps is a real help here", which gives you some idea of how old this post is.). Having been here before in the park's better days is an even bigger help than just going by phone maps. What you want to do is turn off Division St. onto SE 103rd Ave., going south. There aren't any signs pointing to the park, and it's not, umm, an overly affluent area; this may deter many prospective visitors before they ever find the place. Just block out the ominous banjo music you think you're hearing, stay on 103rd, and it'll soon turn into a narrow, rutted road winding up the hill. You'll come to a battered, rusting gate with a heavily vandalized sign listing the park hours. The usual, distinctive wood Portland Parks sign is absent here, and nothing here even gives the name of the park.

So if you leave your car here (locked, of course) and walk past the gate, the road continues to the top of the hill. There you'll find a couple of weedy, abandoned parking lots, cordoned off with lengths of chain link fence. The fences stand ajar, unmarked, neither inviting nor forbidding visitors. There's a stop sign here, for some reason, again heavily vandalized. Next to one of the parking lots is a small meadow area with a nice view of Mt. Hood (top photo photo #2), with unmarked trails leading off into the forest in all directions. On the surface, the whole area looks like the city simply forgot it had a park out here, or they lost the keys to the front gate one day, or something, and nobody's been here for years, maybe decades.

Abandoned parking lot, Kelly Butte

If you look closer, you can see that a (very) minimal level of maintenance is going on. The grass in the meadow has been mowed recently, and if you wander down to the lower parking lot, there's a pile of dirt with fresh bulldozer tracks in front of... what on earth could this be?

> Abandoned Nuclear Bunker, Kelly Butte

Congratulations, you've just stumbled across the park's big forgotten secret. It's not much to look at these days, but this was once the main entrance to the city's Kelly Butte Civil Defense Center. Built in 1956, the city describes it as having been "designed to survive a 'near miss' by up to a 20 megaton bomb and to be self-sustaining for up to 90 days." Here's a 1960 photo of the city's nuclear doomsday bunker, from the Oregon Historical Society. A bit more history at Stumptown Confidential and Urban Adventure League. This page mentions the Kelly Butte bunker as well, while discussing the area's "civil defense" preparedness efforts. Seems they made all these elaborate emergency plans, and then the 1962 Columbus Day Storm hit. That storm, a remnant of a massive Pacific typhoon, was one of the worst natural disasters to hit the Northwest in modern times, and it revealed the Civil Defense Center was not quite the impregnable fortress it had been advertised as.

The bunker figures quite prominently in the 50's CBS docudrama "The Day Called 'X'", which portrays the city evacuating due to an imminent Soviet nuclear attack. It's also a fun time capsule showing what parts of downtown looked like back then, including parts of Broadway near where Pioneer Courthouse Square is now, and the old Morrison Bridge.

Later on, this Cold War relic evolved into the city's emergency/911 dispatch center, until that moved into a new, above-ground building in the mid-1990s. So it's actually only been empty for about a decade or so. I understand the place was never popular with the people who worked here. I remember seeing news reports about workers' "sick building syndrome" complaints about the place, and the inside walls were (and presumably still are) covered in lurid and disturbing murals painted in the late '80s by the local artist Henk Pander.

Once the 911 center moved out, the city tried to find new users for the place, but nobody wanted it. A Oregonian piece back in December 13th, 1992 put it this way:

For Sale or Lease: One concrete bunker.

With its current tenant about to move, one of Portland's most despised properties is about to become available -- the 9-1-1 center at Kelly Butte.

Originally designed as a Civil Defense bomb shelter, the 18,820-square-foot center offers many uniquely unattractive features. Largely underground, the dark and gloomy center has no view. Employees work under a weird mural of partially standing columns.
``It reminds me of what's left over after a major nuclear attack,'' said Marge Hagerman, a secretary who also thinks the mural is ``sort of tropical. I don't know what the intent was.''

Last spring, a ``sick building syndrome'' felled workers in droves with nausea, headaches, sore throats, rashes and a metallic taste in their mouths.

Despite ventilation changes and special cleaning, another wave of sickness hit months later, bringing ambulances to the center four times.

So far, the city is marketing the property internally. In a memo to bureau officials, Fred Venzke, facilities manager, suggests the center might make a good records warehouse, indoor shooting range, community activity center or computer center.

``Facilities Services would be happy to show you the site and discuss its many possibilities,'' he said, noting the center has a 110-ton air conditioning capacity, emergency power and showers.

If the city can't find any takers internally, the center could end up for sale to the general public.

And the price?

``We haven't even addressed that,'' said Diana Holuka, city property manager.

At one point in the early 2000s it was possible to sneak into the bunker and do a little urban exploration, and there was even a public page of photos hosted on Myspace(!?) for a while, but that's been down for over a decade now & I haven't found a good mirror or replacement for those photos. IIRC it looked wet and gloomy and there seemed to be records and office equipment there that didn't move when the city moved out of the bunker, and were slowly decaying in the elements.

While scanning the interwebs for interesting stuff to share about the place, I came across a document titled Portland: The World of Darkness, which is a guide to the city for some sort of fantasy/horror RPG. It says, of the Kelly Butte bunker and the era that spawned it:

In this time of Cold-War paranoia, vampires were able to increase their holdings within the territory, constructing backalley deals with the local politicians and constructing secret “bomb-shelters” that became havens that would potentially last a thousand years; delightfully, most of these constructions were kept secret. When the paranoia revolving around nuclear weapons settled into a more fatalistic attitude, the shelters (and the vampires who inhabited them) were forgotten by the public.

So someone's finally outdone the "Shanghai tunnels" guys in trying to give our fair city some exciting urban mythology. It doesn't seem all that farfetched when you look at the thing up close, either. The place would be a perfect vampire lair, and you're surrounded on all sides by an area the city's basically written off. You could do whatever you liked and it almost certainly wouldn't make the paper. It's like an all-you-can-eat buffet for the undead. But maybe I've just watched too much Buffy or something. Still, vampires or no, you will want to visit during daylight hours only. It's probably really creepy here at night, plus the park technically "closes" at dusk. I think. There was spraypaint all over that part of the sign.

When I was little, my dad's company installed systems inside the bunker for the city's emergency communications bureau. I'm not sure now whether I ever actually went inside or not, but I remember the outside area pretty vividly. Back around the time the 911 center moved, around 1994-95, I was living in SE Portland and thought I'd visit the park as an adult to see what it was like. It's changed far more since 1994 than between then and the 70's, and it hasn't changed in a good way. In '94 the upper parking lot was open to park visitors, there were picnic tables here, and other park amenities, I think there were basketball hoops, or maybe a horseshoe pit. Nothing fancy, and the place wasn't exactly overrun with visitors, but it felt like a regular city park, and didn't have the derelict, back-of-beyond feel it has now. I don't know what happened here. Maybe this is the place where the parks department absorbs its budget cuts, so they can keep the fountains on in the Pearl District. It's like they've put the whole place in suspended animation, waiting for the condo tower crowd to take an interest in the surrounding area. Here's an angry letter to the Portland Tribune by an eastside resident infuriated about the ongoing decline in local park facilities in SE Portland. The "Division-Powell Park" he mentions is another (older?) name you occasionally see for the park.

[Updated 12/29/06: The Mercury's Blogtown has a couple of posts about the butte today. Post #1 links to this humble blog (yeehaw!), while the second post has actual photos from inside the bunker. Kewl. For the record, I didn't take those inside-the-bunker pics, but whoever did, I doff my hat to you, good sir / ma'am. It's a real shame that Cheney wasn't home, though.

I've been meaning to go back to the butte for a while now. I half-seriously considered going up there a few days ago, on the winter solstice, to maybe set something on fire or whatever. I'm not a religious person, or even a spiritual person, but I thought it might be cool, and by cool I mean photogenic. Sadly, I'm far too law-abiding for my own good, plus it was nothing but meetings all day at the office, plus it was cold and dark, plus I don't really like fire very much, plus I decided it was a stupid idea, so I stayed at home and watched TV instead. But hey, it'll probably be a bit warmer on Walpurgisnacht, April 30 - May 1, so there's still time to organize a proper event. No Morris dancing, though, please. Thx. Mgmt.]

It's not hard to come up with fun ideas for what to do with the bunker. If I was to become a James Bond villain, or a superhero, it might make a good lair. It's not all that huge, so it'd be more of a starter lair, or a pied a lair, so to speak. Or if we're going to stop being geeks for a moment, one obvious possibility is a museum of the nuclear age. It could explain how the bunker worked, do a bit about Cold War paranoia, and present nice Portland-friendly platitudes about why The Atom Is Not Our Friend. Sure, you'd occasionally lose a school bus or two off the narrow windy road to the top, but the survivors would get a good education.

One other thing looked different when I visited in 2006, and it took me a while to figure out what it was. Until late 2005, there had been a rather tall communications tower right near the bunker, but the city had stopped using it and recently decided to remove it due to, you guessed it, vandalism trouble. The local reaction seemed to be along the lines of "Hmm, something looks different. Oh, the tower's gone? Huh. Ok. Whatever."

In truth the spooky Cold War stuff only occupies the eastern half of the park, while the western half is host to an obscure Portland Water Bureau facility holding a huge underground tank. This is part of how Portland was able to just take the Mt. Tabor reservoirs offline a few years ago and just keep them around to be decorative. I don't know whether this half of the butte is open to the public or not. There are similar tanks in operation on Powell Butte and visitors don't seem to be a problem over there, but I've also never heard of people going there and haven't seen any photos from there, and I don't see anything on the map that looks like an obvious main entrance, other than a little driveway that connects into the parking lot of the huge megachurch at I-205 and Powell, which is bound to deter a lot of potential visitors. Or at least it deters me. The water tank area obviously doesn't have trees on top of the tank, so that spot may have a nice view of sunsets toward downtown. Except that after the sunset you're on Kelly Butte at night, which could be a problem.

Years ago I came across a couple of brief mentions of the water facility here, here, and here, back when the tank was above ground and smaller. And the water bureau's website had a few photos of deer at the facility, which is kind of cool, I guess, unless you live next door to the place and have a garden. I haven't checked those links in years though and don't know if they're still valid.

[Updated 9/13/06: A new post on the Water Bureau's blog talks about the bureau recently repainting the Kelly Butte Tank. The post includes a photo of a few people standing in front of the freshly painted 10M gallon tank, which gives you an idea just how big it is. Seems the previous paint job on the thing was done with lead paint. On a drinking water tank. Nice. Granted, it was on the outside of the tank, but still...]

In years past, Kelly Butte also hosted a jail and an associated rock quarry, not to be confused with the similar and much-better-known facilities further north at Rocky Butte. The Rocky Butte jail didn't close until some time in the 80's, IIRC. This page from the county Sheriff's Office indicates the Kelly Butte jail was operating at least as late as 1924. Another page I saw (which I can't locate now) stated the quarry was on the west side of the butte, so a long time I thought the water facility might have taken its place, as that seemed eminently logical. I recently (2022) figured out that the old quarry was actually located I-205 runs now, which is also a logical thing to do with an old quarry, just one that hadn't occurred to me previously. And the jail was right there at the quarry, so that seems to rule out the existence of an intact abandoned jail or extensive gothic ruins hidden in the forest, as cool as that would be.

Directly to the south of the park proper, between it and SW Powell, there used to be an old drive-in theater. Like most of its brethren, the 104th Street Drive-In has been gone for a long, long time, but the cool old 50's era sign is still there, looking just a little more rusty and weatherbeaten every year. The theater's old screen, meanwhile, lives on down at the 99W drive-in down in Newberg. These days part of the area is a large RV dealership, and part is devoted to some sort of industrial use.

Oh, and did I mention the butte's an extinct volcano? It's true. It's just one part of the extensive, and amusingly named, Boring Lava Field (named after the nearby town of Boring), which is responsible for a large number of old lava domes and cinder cones across the wider metro area. The USGS has more here. More recently, the butte was also affected by the area's repeated ice age floods as recently as 13000 years ago.

Forest, Kelly Butte

This last photo was taken on one of the many unmarked, unmapped trails crisscrossing the forest. The forest is quite dense, and you could easily get lost if you don't keep track of which way you're going. A few spots look like someone has been camping there recently, fire pits and everything. I imagine this would be a good, and extremely secluded, place to have a homeless camp. The forest here is great and everything, but it doesn't take long before you start to feel like leaving. It's not that it feels unsafe, exactly, it just feels like you're intruding into someone's living room. So it's back down the path, trying not to get lost, and back through the broken fences and rusty gates, down the overgrown old road to where you parked, and you're off to your next adventure. Assuming your car's still there.

Mt. Hood from Kelly Butte


  • [Updated 9/26/06: This post had a lot of pics from Kelly Butte, but didn't actually have a photo of the butte itself. I thought I'd fix that, so I drove out to Mt. Tabor this morning before work and took the new (properly spooky & mysterious) top photo. Kelly Butte is the dark forested hill in the foreground.]
  • [Updated 1/1/07: Another batch of photos of the place here.]
  • [Updated 7/1/09: Yet more photos, this time in semi-glorious infrared.]
  • [Updated 8/25/09: And even more photos, this time presented as a fancy Flash slideshow, no less.]
  • [Updated 8/27/11: And a long history post (no photos) I did about the erstwhile Kelly Butte Jail, circa 1906-1910]


Anonymous said...

We Just went inside the bunker And it is crazy in there. Sick building syndrome no shit! I'm surprised the place isn't crawling with vampires. Contact us if you have questions- such as how to get in. Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

So how did you guys get the the bomb shelter? i couldnt find a way in.

brx0 said...

You could try asking here. I think there was something about wriggling in through an old airshaft, something like that.

Anonymous said...

Im looking for blueprints? any idea who actually built this place? How big is this place really?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for collecting and posting information about Portland's Civil Defense command center. I drove and walked up to it last Saturday (5/12/07) and found its condition similar to that shown in the posted photos. It looks like more dirt and gravel has been dumped on the front of the structure, perhaps in response to reports of incursions by unauthorized visitors.

My father, Evan Kennedy, did the structural design for this building. I dimly recall visiting it when in its original use as a Cold War emergency operations center. When I learned of his work on this project, it was way too fascinating for a little boy to ignore; I wheedled Dad mercilessly to take me along on a visit. He did take me there once. My recollection is faded to almost nothing, but I remember feeling pretty intimidated by it. They didn't have the concept of "Take your Daughters and Sons to Work" in the 1950s, and it was clear a little tyke like me was not very welcome.

I do not recall anything about 'The Day Called X.' In an era with no home video capabilities, if you missed it on TV, you missed it. Perhaps it was shown as an educational movie in schools, but I have no recollection of it at all. The images of Portland in the '50s in that film are priceless. Those are accurate images of the world I grew up in. I remember Civil Defense drills at school, but I don't remember any evacuation exercise like that described in the film. The air-raid siren was tested every Friday at noon. Even at a young age, I thought it ironic that any attacking force simply needed to show up at noon on Friday to catch us all ignoring the siren and going about normal activities.

My father is 91 now and I visit him as frequently as I can to glean stories of his life as a structural engineer. He practiced in Portland from 1947 to 1974. He designed dozens of buildings in Oregon and Portland: mostly schools, hospitals and churches.

According to my dad, the command center's principal structure is an arch of 24"-thick reinforced concrete. He recalls designing it for a 20-pounds-per-square-inch load. For context, a typical structure is designed for wind loads of 20 pounds per square foot, not 20 pounds per square INCH. My dad was a Civil Defense enthusiast, but stopped short of building a home bomb shelter. He witnessed a nuclear bomb test in Nevada in the early '50s and used the knowledge gained from inspecting the aftermath to inform his designs of buildings. His firm also designed the now-demolished command-center radio tower, which like the bunker, was to be able to handle up to a 20-pound-per-square-inch blast-wave loading.

On Saturday, he waited in the car at the gate, listening to the opera, while I walked up the road and took some photos of the "control center," as he calls it. He's not so good at walking up hills like that now. This fascinating and eerie artifact of the 1950s intersects my life in an interesting way. I hope to learn more about this odd moment in American history.

Thanks again for providing a discussion and reference links about Portland's Civil Defense control center.

Anonymous said...

hi i'm skylar i have been in that place alot of time i have the blueprints that i found ther that place was cool to hang out in but i here that the vent has been fild in so u can't get in. ok well have fun....

Anonymous said...

A week or so ago I went exploring at Kelly Butte, and my impression was the exact same. Besides the derelict, abandoned atmosphere (even the graffiti looks old and faded), there was definitely a creepy feeling about the place. Once the summit is reached, the road (after it passed the turnoff towards the bunker) goes abruptly downhill and then just sort of trails of into nothing; it appears to be blocked by a small landslide. Beyond this there is a steep gully leading down to the reservoir, and while trying to make my way down there (I had initially mistaken the reservoir for a paved road!), I found the remains of some cement conduits and metal pipes - remnants of the old water system, I suppose?
On the whole, it was the most unappealing, dismal "natural area" I had ever visited - perhaps even worse than Everett Crowley Park in Vancouver BC, a disused landfill that was allowed to revert to a "natural state".
Besides this, one thing that struck me about the butte was its inexplicable obscurity. Considering that it's a prominent landmark that can be seen for miles, why is it that hardly any Portlanders even know its name, let alone are aware there's a park up there? Personally, it almost puts me in mind of the castle on the hill in "Edward Scissorhands," of which all the happy little suburbanites living below seem to be unaware of. Thanks a lot for the info.

Unknown said...

well yes I have been in there a lot and it is realy creepy in there.If you dont have a light then you arent going to be able to see where you are there are a lot of stuff that I dont understnad about that place.But I do know that there is no way to get in there now.I was gitting in under the tower in a air duck but after they took the tower down they filled everything in and I cant find any other way in And I have some paper work from there but there is no way to get anymore now someone leave a comment if you have anymore quistions about kelly butte

Anonymous said...

My husband and I went up there a few months ago and explored some of the trails that go into the woods. We found several homeless encampments. I would be cautious about walking around up there, because you don't want to startle some crazy transient. If you get hurt up there you're on your own...

Anonymous said...

I was up there on 1/20/08 and it looks like the city is attempting to cover the entire entrance with fill. There has to be some way of getting in there. Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

Cool! Thanks for all the updates and pictures!

In the late 70's me and my buddies used to get high and drive slowly past the entrance, frightened, desperately trying to search for any clues that would help us figure out what the hell this place was! Always only 2-3 cars in the parking lot, nothing to be seen through the locked front glass doors except some kind of little reception room, no signs of any sort, anywhere, everything painted bland beige, & a couple cameras with little red lights always watching us through the glass doorways.

The curiosity drove us nuts for years. I can now finally rest, other than of course wanting to have it for my own now.

Anonymous said...

I have been there twice over the past week and there is no obvious entry point. The main entrance has almost completed been covered. It appears that the city is dumping from both the top of the entrance and bottom.

It also appears that someone has tried to gain access by breaking away the concrete used to fill the old vents.

Does anyone have blueprints? The post by Skylar states they she might. There has got to another way in!

Jeff. You can email me at: said...

The upper and lower floor plans can be seen at the following site:

Anonymous said...

I have the blue prints and there is no way that anyone is going to get back in there.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info - I was driving by last week and my brother said, "What is that place" and I had no idea. I have lived here for 7 years and just thought it was some rich guy's hill. Now I know. Any other weird places in PDX that I should know about??

Anonymous said...

not really there isnt much around here.I used to go in there a lot befor the took the tower down and cemented the air duck shut.

Anonymous said...

What are the conditions like up at the bunker these days? I'm a historian and would love to get some old commo gear, old BOEC district maps, etc. I'd be willing to dig or whatever to get inside.

The old site of the Kelly Butte Jail site no longer exists. After Kelly Butte Jail closed down (having been replaced by the Rocky Butte Jail), the jail site was used for a joint Portland Police/Multnomah County Sheriff training academy for many years. But as time went on, the site was eventually vacated and was finally bulldozed to make way for the new I-205 freeway in the early 80's. No trace of the old Kelly Butte Jail remains.

And those of you that feel a bit creeped out going up there, you are not alone. Ever since it closed, I have always felt that way up there too, anyplace on Kelly Butte. Even on the other side by the big water tank, it is the same thing. Maybe some bad karma at work up there?

If anyone has any current information about the old 911 center on Kelly Butte, please post! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

If you go into the new BOEC building which is basically across the street there is a big painting on the wall, in the lobby, of the mural.

It's like an "artists conception" painting that was probably used to pitch the idea for it way back in 1988.

It's definitely a little creepy and shows some of the detail that you might not have been able to see if you didn't get to see it in person, like the portland skyline in the background.

Anonymous said...

My family lived near the entry road from 1959 to 1964. We knew of the shelter and sometimes We went up there for an outing. In those days the last house on 103rd before the entrance was occupied by a self-proclaimed witch. She used to make a point of coming out and non-verbally confronting children walking to the park. It used to scare the $&@! Out of me!

Ned Howard said...

I’m working on a documentary short about Oregon's lost Cold War infrastructure and I’m looking for anyone who would like to participate in on camera interviews. I’m mainly trying to find folks who worked at the site, either during the Civil Defense era or when it was the 911 call center. I would also like to talk with anyone who has seen the site during its abandoned years. Please you have anything to share, please contact me at the email address below:


Ned Howard
NE Portland

Ian_Pian114th said...

I live close to the butte. 114th and Bush st. I've been wanting to find a way up there beside the old main entrance. So the dog and I entered today at the Funtastic aka Old Drive In sign. More Hobo camps then you could shake a brown bag at. Oddly not a single one around. creepy. Lots of garage and trash. We followed trails that lead to other camps and one that followed powell for a while. Feeling disappointed and wanting to go to the top. I headed back out to the 109th and Franklin hobo entrance and we walked around the butte looking for entrances till we walked up the old main entrance. We saw some by a water tank but I decide to hit the main gate. Only saw one nice looking younger woman with a dog getting in her car at the entrance. Up top its creepy and very still. Left for dead shopping carts and clothing soaked from our weather. A few Bud cans and broken glass. Gates left hanging opening. The old shelter is completely dirted over or covered up. I hit a trail hoping to find a way down. We found one that dumps out at the water tank's fence line down to Franklin street. I wanted one that dumps out by the hobocaust entrance. I found what I think is a deer trial. Its norrow and steep. very steep at least with the mud and dog that pulls. I made my way down the butte side with caution as the bums seems to have a large campsite down there. We finally dumped out by two very trashed and creepy pallet made camps. Then it connects to the old trail we hit that is behind the Funtastic. Its kind of confusing back in there with the many trail heads the lead to other bum camps. I know which now goes up the butte side. Take a right at the trail past the old piss bucket. Its really steep and will require good mud boots (not Adidas note to self) and maybe a walking stick. This will take you to the top from the powell side. Is kind of weird back in there though. Other option is off franklin st. and its at the water tank fence line it goes up there. there is also a old road that I saw no sign of up top. I looked for it. I will keep you posted as I'm determine to make this place my new inner-city stomping grounds. I use to live close to Mt. Tabor and miss the old walks up there.

Bandy said...

I visited there today. I went up the hill on 103rd St which I assume is the main entrance. When I got to the empty parking lot clearing area, I definitely got an evil forest vibe that I haven't experienced at any other place in Portland. I started hiking on a trail to the right of the clearing and came to a tent. I walked by the tent and didn't see any sign of a person hiding inside. Like another poster said, if you would be attacked here, there would be nowhere to go, especially if it was multiple attackers. I turned around and went back to the parking lot area. I walked towards a mini fire pit that seemed fresh. I then passed that and started on another trail. After about 1/8 of a mile on that trail, I came to another tent area that looked slightly more sophisticated with hanging toilet paper and trash thrown about. I continued on the trail for a bit and took a right turn. As I was walking on this trail a grey wolf-life dog crossed the trail about 15 feet away from me. Luckily for me it seemed scared of my presence. Could this be one of the camper's dogs? That was my cue to get the hell out of this creepy place. On my hike out to the parking lot I heard this squeal and saw a bat take flight from a log on the ground. The whole time in the woods I felt like someone was watching me, but I didn't see anyone. This place is intriguing and I hope to go back soon, but I'll make sure to bring someone this time.

Anonymous said...

Here's a great aerial photo of Kelly Butte in 1963:

Unknown said...

When I was a kid, back in 1973, we used to climb that hill (which seemed big at the time) and had a blast up there. I found a gate when I was exploring and never knew what that place was, until now! Amazing. I miss Oregon.

Anonymous said...

Weshi: What you saw was probably a coyote. There is a pack of at least five in the area. I know this as I live right next to the park and can hear them nearly every night. I for one love having the park so close. It's nice to walk out my door and into a forest in the middle of such a large city. My dog is a huge fan as well!

Anonymous said...

Hi came across this site as I am always curious about it. Back when I went to Marshall (1995-96)... we did a Geography project - the whole class and we basically mapped and hiked the trails. There is a overgrown rock quarry that is all thats left from the jail on the West side...

I remember the same. Lots of trails, a crab-apple orchard on the top, we took the trail that went behind the water tank and thru the summit to the old 911 center. A few homeless camps there, dirty mags, etc. (lol). But otherwise, a pretty "old growth" type forest right in town. I would certainly love to explore it again someday, but am too cautious to go it alone. Especially with the homeless population seemingly occupying it more lately.

Anonymous said...

My grandmother lived right across the stret from Kellie Butte, and let me tell you there is something wierd about that mountain. I could tell you countless stories e-mail me if you ever want to hear them

Anonymous said...

sorry that's It may take a coupke days for me to answer but I will

Carrie said...

In the mid-80's I used to go inside the bunker with my brothers for "tours". We loved playing teotwaki games on the hill and sometimes would stand outside the door of the bunker in front of the cameras until someone on a speaker would ask us what we needed. Most of the time they were very cool about letting us filthy little kids in for a peek. I remember asking if we were to get bombed if we could come inside and the answer was no. There was also a massive water tower nearby that we used to climb with our bicycles strapped to our backs. Then we would ride around on the top. How am I still alive? That hill WAS a great place to play - but now - it's uber creepy. Bums EVERYWHERE.

matts said...

There is a back door, which I suspect is the "escape hatch" mentioned in the plans. It's near 'another' flat water tower, and is basically just a set of concrete steps going into a metal door. It seems to be clean, as if somewhat cared for, which is confusing to me based on what I understand of the places current situation.
If you're interested in plans, the mural inside, the basic intentions, or even how to get hold of the movie which basically is a sales technique for building more of these in other cities, or anything else (which I may or may not have) you can email me at

I'm also very interested in some of the other buttes in the area, as there is a whole array of wierdness that I would like more details on. If anyone is interested in talking about these, or has any type of info (from metaphysic to historic to whatever) to share, I'm interested in hearing all.

Anonymous said...

Stumbled on this blog looking for info about the old quarry. It's referred to in an old geology book from the 60's, as apparently there was a visible lava intrusion in the ancient sand and gravel that covers the area ("Troutdale formation"). I stopped at the old quarry on Division street across from te Butte, but that's not the one. Couldn't see any sign of the quarry driving around the butte or from Google earth, but sounds like it may be near the water tank.
Interesting comments posted here; hope they make it into a history book some day.

Sunshine said...

I've lived on 111th between Division and Powell for 17 years and go up there all the time. My husband has lived here all his life and played on the butte in the 70's also he has climed the tower several times, when it was still up there. It was kinda sad when they took it down. I'm glad the bunker is gone/buried. We run into homeless people all the time up there and they are usually very nice. Last Friday they were filming NBC's Grimm up there. We snuck up the back way and watched them film. Very cool place, not creepy at all.

Lindy said...


Unknown said...

My Brother and I played up there as kids in the 60's. There was a pond which could accessed from the end of 101st. A couple hundred yards east of the pond we found steel doors in the side of the hill with a concrete wall in front which had a canon-ball size hole blasted in it. My brother said he got in the steel doors and there was a map on the wall showing a system of tunnels all under the city - One coming out under Marshall high school - There were more steel doors beyond the foyer. I remember hiking to the other side of the Butte @ night and sitting on a log with friends to watch "Night Of The living Dead" @ the 104th street drive-in - The trip back was pretty Spooky!

Unknown said...

My Brother and I played up there as kids in the 60's. There was a pond which could accessed from the end of 101st. A couple hundred yards east of the pond we found steel doors in the side of the hill with a concrete wall in front which had a canon-ball size hole blasted in it. My brother said he got in the steel doors and there was a map on the wall showing a system of tunnels all under the city - One coming out under Marshall high school - There were more steel doors beyond the foyer. I remember hiking to the other side of the Butte @ night and sitting on a log with friends to watch "Night Of The living Dead" @ the 104th street drive-in - The trip back was pretty Spooky!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

We just went up there today! I came home and posted about it. While I was looking for more info on Kelly Butte, I came across your article. It's great. So I linked to it.


Unknown said...

Moma dont like tattletales !

Anonymous said...

in 1971 I attended the joint PPB/MCSO Police academy inside the old central command bomb was a bit freaky then. Later, academy moved elsewhere and emergency communications (BOEC) was housed inside until they eventually had new quarters off SE Powell Blvd.

Unknown said...

You need to clean up links on this post. Many of them are gone, but a couple now go to Porn sites. :/

Unknown said...

Grew up on 110th and used to go up on the butte all the time (including jumping off the two smaller water towers off 109th on to a wall of mud. So much fun.

Now you couldn't pay me to go up there to revisit some of the old tree forts because of the homeless population.

Michael Clark said...

The Old Isolation Hospital was located on the Butte up fron 104th and Powell. Highly Contagious Patients. My Mom was there for a while in the early 50's with Polio.

Anonymous said...

I'm able to find quite a bit of information about the bunker, jail, quarry, and emergency center. Is there any information out there about the old hospital?