Distance: 3 miles up to 11 miles
If you are in Portland Oregon and are interested in a spectacular urban river walk you are in for a real treat. The City of Portland has created a connected multi-purpose path that runs along both sides of the Willamette River. On the west side (downtown Portland side) is the Tom McCall Waterfront Park and on the east side is the Vera Katz Esplanade.
I have made a couple of updates to this post, both have pictures from along the walk. A link to that post is http://oregonhiker.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/portland-river-walk-update-2/
You can start the walk anywhere along the route; I like to start on the west side because it is an easy walk from Downtown Portland. My favorite time is early in day because I like the sights and sounds of the city coming to life, but any time of day is fine. Walking north along the seawall take the time to stop and read and signs that tell the various stories about the history of riverfront. There are several monuments and memorials that are worth a stop. Under the Burnside Bridge on weekends during the summer the Saturday Market is held, I would hold off on that until you are on the way back so that you don’t have to carry your treasures with you. At the market you can buy locally made items as well as a variety of foods and drinks.
On the north end cross the Steel Bridge, you will see the walking, running and bike path running across at the same level as the sidewalk. Since this is a draw bridge you could get treated to the nice experience of waiting for the bridge to allow a boat to pass.
Once on the east side follow the path south along the river. There are hundreds of different plants along this pathway, many of them native plants. Here again there are a number of signs to tell you interesting information. You will also get to cross a floating walkway and even though it is very large and weighs a bunch you can feel it move as you walk, don’t worry it is well attached. You will also come to a steel grid section where you can look down to the water below.
Take the time to stop along the way and take in the view of the city across the river. There are benches that you can stop at to just take it all in. You might even watch the small fishing boats on the river. Certain times of year they will be fishing for sturgeon, a real primeval fish, other times they will be fishing for salmon. Yes salmon do run right through the middle of this city.
I generally walk down to the Hawthorne Bridge and cross back there. There is a spiraling walkway up to bridge. Once across you can walk back to the Saturday Market and enjoy the rest of your day.
If you are interested in making an extended walk you can stay on the east side path and continue on south all the way down to the Sellwood Bridge. If you go all the way to Sellwood and back this will add another 7-8 miles. Crossing the Sellwood Bridge is a bit of an adventure as it is very narrow and the walk way is shared by walkers and bicycles. Personally I don’t find the west side to be very interesting, but on the east side you have both the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OSMI) and the Oak Bottom Trail that goes through a beautiful natural area. I would do a out and back loop and come back and cross the Hawthorne Bridge.