Sunday, October 21, 2012

Steamboat Park, Cornelius

Steamboat Park, Cornelius
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A few photos of Steamboat Park, on a bend of the Tualatin River out in Cornelius. The name refers to a brief era when commercial steamboats plied the river, shipping grain and produce downstream to market. Feel free to be amazed and doubtful about that; the Tualatin isn't very wide or deep, it meanders all over the place, and it's always full of logs and other obstructions. The Tualatin Riverkeeper guide to the river doesn't recommend boating upstream of Hillsboro, even in a canoe or kayak. So the Tualatin River's steamboats can't have been very big. A pdf about the city's points of interest describes those days:

So even though the Tualatin was narrow, shallow and overhung with tree limbs, it was the best way farmers could get their wheat, and later their fruit and timber to market. In 1867, the Oregonian noted that piloting a steamship down the river was not an easy task: “In summer, the size and great number of mosquitoes sometimes obscure the vision of the captain or attack him so furiously as to compel him to let go of the wheel…. collisions with the bank are not infrequent.”

The steamboat era ended when the railroad came to town.

In fact, the city of Cornelius is named after the guy who convinced the railroad to come to town, if that gives you any idea. It's a shame, really. It's fun to imagine that the Tualatin once had a vanished era of glamorous Mississippi-style paddlewheel steamers, full of riverboat gamblers and fancy ladies and mysterious strangers and intrigue galore, with Cornelius's answer to Mark Twain writing it all down for posterity.

Steamboat Park, Cornelius

The park doesn't currently have a lot that harks back to the steamboat era. The city's discussed putting up interpretive signs, but they aren't the region's most affluent city and they don't have a big budget to work with, so it hasn't happened yet. They received a Metro grant some years ago to do habitat restoration along the river, and this July they discussed getting a federal grant to put in a boat launch for non-motorized boats (as there's no river access in the park at all right now), which would put the interpretive sign plan on hold again. Until, I imagine, grant money becomes available, or someone volunteers.

Steamboat Park, Cornelius Steamboat Park, Cornelius Steamboat Park, Cornelius

1 comment :

Rick Hamell said...

Only two steamboats did ply the Tualatin River, neither for very long. Steamboats on Oregon Rivers tended to be pretty shallow draft anyways, frequently able to go in three feet or less of water. There was one that could go in as little as six inches!

Most of the river traffic on the Tualatin River were flatt topped wooden rafts or occasionally Native Canoes hired for the purpose.

Coupled with the rough going over the West Hills, this is one of the major reasons why the Tualatin Valley was not as heavily settled as the Willamette Valley.