Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cathedral Park

As easy as it is to forget nature when in the city, we can also slip into thinking of Portland as small and quaint, and forget that sometimes it does monumental, as well.

Both of these things are cured by a visit to Cathedral Park, which seems to be unknown to most Portlanders, even though they drive right over it all the time.

It’s under the St. Johns Bridge, which is about as large-scale and classy as Portland can get. Did you know that when the bridge opened in 1931, it had the highest clearance in the nation? That it was the longest suspension bridge west of Detroit? Today it sees more than 20,000 cars daily, but nowhere near that many ever visit the spacious, quiet park underneath it.

To go down there is truly appreciate the grandeur of the bridge, with its 400-foot gothic towers and the cathedral-like arches that gave the park its name. Visiting here will also give you another sense of Portland, sometimes lost: that it’s a river town. There’s a boat ramp here, as well as ducks and geese and picnickers, and the occasional sea-going vessel cruising by.

It’s thought that Lewis and Clark camped here, and we know that the original founder of St. Johns homesteaded here in 1847. In the 1970s, the area was an informal junkyard, so Howard Galbraith, the "honorary mayor" of unincorporated St Johns, led a drive to make it a park.

The Highway 30 traffic is far enough above you that the sounds won’t disturb you. Downtown is far enough downstream that you’ll feel out in the country. And the bridge is big and beautiful enough that you’ll remember that sometimes Portland do things on a mighty impressive scale.

N Edison St & Pittsburg Ave


5 a.m. to Midnight

TriMet #17 to N Syracuse and Philadelphia or #4 or #75 to N Lombard and Baltimore.