Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Kelley Point expedition

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So here's a big batch of photos from Kelley Point Park, way up at the far northwest tip of the city, where the Willamette flows into the Columbia. The city describes the place like this:

New Englander Hall Jackson Kelley (1790-1874) was one of the most vocal advocates for Oregon in the first half of the 19th century. In 1828 he published Settlement on the Oregon River, and nine more pamphlets on a similar theme over the next 40 years. A bit deranged, he spent most of his life bitterly trying to win notice - and payment - for having sparked American interest in the Pacific Northwest.

Kelley visited Oregon briefly in 1834. During that time, Sellwood, Milwaukie, and Oregon City were all vying with Portland to be the main city at the north end of the Willamette. Among these was Kelley's unsuccessful attempt to establish a city at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. In 1926 this site was named Kelley Point.

Kelley Point Park was originally owned by the Port of Portland which covered the flood-prone peninsula with tons of river dredgings. The site that was once envisioned as a city is now a park on an isolated tip of land.

shell, kelley point park

columbia river, kelley point park

You'd think that the spot where the city's two rivers join would be a central location, but it's really quite remote, or at least it feels that way. Apparently the closest residence is about four miles from here. Closer by, it's nothing but shipping terminals, steel mills, warehouses, protected wetlands, the old St. Johns Landfill, the mothballed Wapato jail, and, well, probably a lot of other stuff I don't know about because I'm hardly ever up that way.

shell, kelley point park

I've been out to Kelley Point a couple of times before, and it's been on my blog todo list for a while now, but it takes what seems like freakin' forever to get there. People don't often realize this, because on everyone's mental map of the city the Willamette is ruler-straight north-south, and the Columbia east-west, but Kelley Point is further north than downtown Vancouver, and about as far west as Washington Square. Seriously. Look carefully at a map and see for yourself.

heron, kelley point park

So it feels remote, and it doesn't help that the secluded parking lot has big signs warning you to lock your car and not leave anything valuable in it, like the signs you see out in the Gorge. The remoteness is both true and illusory. True, for obvious reasons. It's surrounded by water on three sides -- besides the two rivers, the park's southern border is the much-maligned Columbia Slough. Directly across the Columbia it's nothing but trees, with a few barges parked here and there for storage. Across the Willamette is rural Sauvie Island. There's even wildlife. When I was there, I saw a beaver swimming in the Columbia. I figured it was just a nutria until it saw me and slapped its tail to warn the others. There probably are others -- I later ran across a chunk of wood on the beach that had obviously been gnawed by beavers. I also saw a couple of great blue herons, not that they're terribly uncommon. One was standing in the Columbia Slough, unwisely looking for something to eat there. The only thing you're going to catch in the Columbia Slough is cooties. The beach on the Willamette side is littered with shells that look like clamshells. I don't know if they're freshwater mussels, or some sort of invasive species off one of the cargo ships, or what. And then there were a few animal tracks I didn't recognize. Not a dog, clearly. I kind of hope it's an otter, because I always hope for otters. But it's industrial North Portland, so it's probably just some kind of horribly mutated rat or something.

Apparently they also get sea lions here occasionally, at least dead ones, for whatever that's worth.

animal tracks, kelley point

The remoteness of Kelley Point is also illusory, because immediately to the east of the parking lot, behind a razor-wire fence, is another parking lot, a monumentally vast one, full of shiny new Toyotas just off the boat from Japan. And immediately to the south, across the Columbia Slough from the park, is a gigantic grain terminal that usually has a couple of huge ships docked and loading up on wheat, destined for distant ports of call far across the Pacific Rim. When a ship goes by, the wake causes big waves along the beach, sort of a freshwater sneaker wave if you somehow happened to not notice the ship going by.

columbia river, kelley point park

tugboats on the willamette, kelley point

People do use the place -- it's got a big group picnic area, and restrooms, and there's evidence people like to hang out on the beach with a nice, cool, and technically illegal premium malt beverage. There's always someone walking a dog, because this is Portland. Oh, and apparently it's also popular in some quarters for, well, anonymous hookups in the underbrush. I suppose that's a step up from airport bathrooms.

kelley point

columbia river, kelley point park

So, uh, apparently this is the point where I provide the bullet-point list of "assorted items from around the interwebs" relating somehow to Kelley Point. That's the usual formula, and I'd so hate to disappoint.

  • Columbia River Images
  • Photos in at least two posts at "The Narrative Image"
  • A post at 8 second block. Incidentally, this humblest of humble blogs is actually blogrolled there, which is the mark of an uncommonly discerning mind, so I wholeheartedly encourage you to go pay a visit.
  • PDX Family Adventures says the big ships going by will amaze your kids. I don't know about your kids, and I have none of my own, but it certainly would've amazed me if I'd come here as a kid. Not that I've ever been representative of the larger population or anything.
  • travisezell, describes the park as "a sludgy industrial riverbed for fishermen and rubbish (old boat parts, the ruins of docks, plus your typical human folderol like tennis shoes, liquor bottles and computer parts)". I didn't see any computer parts, but I can see how that might happen, and he's got a cool photo of some kind of circuit board half-buried in the sand.
  • Kelley Point is Day 65 at "365 Days [and learning'"
  • A few photos of the park, and other spots around town, in this post on "Passing Perception".
  • madeofmeat: "Temporal fuckup and Kelley Point"
  • A post about ship spotting at More Hockey Less War.
  • A 2007 column at the Asian Reporter "Talking Story", involves the columnist wandering around the park, asking various people if they know the history of the place. Nobody does. But really, why should they?
  • The Zinester's Guide has a short piece about the park, just history, no photos.
  • An interesting comment to a post at Land Use Watch. Honestly, the presence of paved paths here is way down my list of local environmental & livability concerns. If the paths weren't paved, they'd probably just be impassable, soupy, probably contaminated mud most of the year.
  • A couple of posts about riding there at BikePortland.
  • The Urban Adventure League, or at least the main guy behind it, tried to bike there three different times and never quite got there. So, uh, I win! Yay!
  • A forum thread about fishing for sturgeon here. Yes, fishing for long-lived, bottom-feeding, heavy-metal-and-PCB-accumulating sturgeon, just downstream of the Portland Harbor superfund site. Yeah, good luck with that.
  • 1992 and 2007 Oregonian articles with much handwringing about low-income and immigrant people insisting on fishing here, despite the cooties and other environmental hazards.
  • A couple of posts that mention making pottery with soil from Kelley Point
  • Video of a party here on YouTube.
  • Back in 2002, the park figured in a gruesome homicide - the body, or parts of it, were found in the Columbia Slough here, in a duffelbag.
  • Oh, and Kelley Point was even the epicenter of an earthquake a while back.
kelley point Like most parks in town, Kelley Point is a popular spot to let your dog run around, and maybe blog about it afterward. A few selected examples:
  • Realigned Rain says the park is "not all that interesting", although the dog seemed to like it.
  • "For the Love of Water" calls it Dog Paradise
  • "Bella the Boxer" reports on "My date with Norman", with a video and everything. I didn't realize boxers were so tech-savvy. You learn something every day, I guess.
  • GoodStuffNW calls it Doggie Nirvana
tugboats on the willamette, kelley point tugboats on the willamette, kelley point Assorted Flickr photos, again from "around the interwebs" (i.e. from Flickr): anchor, kelley point park columbia river, kelley point park anchor, kelley point park columbia river, kelley point park columbia river, kelley point park columbia river, kelley point park kelley point shell, kelley point park columbia river, kelley point park columbia river, kelley point park columbia river, kelley point park willamette river, kelley point park willamette river, kelley point park willamette river, kelley point park willamette river, kelley point park


Unknown said...


Thanks for linking to my blog concerning Kelley Point Park. Unfortunately, I had to change the permalink to:

Could you pleased fix the broken link on your site?


adventure! said...

Hey, I've made it to Kelley Point far more times than I haven't.

--"the main guy" of the Urban Adventure League