Peaceful Places in Portland: McLoughlin Promenade in Oregon City

Every now and then I like to profile a place from my book, Peaceful Places in Portland. This week it’s off to Oregon City and a rather unknown little treat, the McLoughlin Promenade.

McLoughlin Promenade above Willamette Falls in Oregon City.
McLoughlin Promenade in Oregon City has a great view of Willamette Falls — and an interesting history.

Let’s go back in time a little. 1829: Hudson’s Bay Company founds Oregon City. 1844: John McLoughlin buys this land. 1845: Oregon City becomes the first incorporated American city west of the Rockies. 1851: McLoughlin donates land along the bluff for a park.

When you stand out on the McLoughlin Promenade today, you’re looking at the original destination of the Oregon Trail, about a 2,000-mile trail used by some 400,000 people in the 1830s and 1840s. Not all of them came all this way, but see if, for just a second, you can see Willamette Falls, without the paper mills, as a thing that families would have dreamed about seeing for months as they slogged across the continent.

Speaking of those paper mills, the one on the near side is slated for a mind-blowing redevelopment; I got a little tour and sample of what’s coming recently.

McLoughlin Promenade above Willamette Falls in Oregon City.
Today the walkway is a pleasant, paved path with benches to relax on.

Another bit of history: in the Great Depression the Works Progress Administration laid this concrete, and in 2010 the government fixed it up again. Now it can be what McLoughlin himself probably envisioned: a peaceful, scenic place for folks to take a walk and look out over Oregon first city. We also now have rhododendrons, park benches, historical plaques, and a paved walkway.

McLoughlin Promenade above Willamette Falls in Oregon City.
Landscaping adds a natural touch.

And we still have the falls, and the history, as well. That history feels pretty alive when you’re up on the promenade.

Where: 625 Center Street, Oregon City. Online. Admission: Free. Hours: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. TriMet: #33 to 5th and High Street.

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