Oregon’s only urban state park is a lush, flower filled canyon. Tryon Creek Natural Area is in a deep forested ravine that’s only 7 miles from downtown Portland.
Even though it’s so close to everything, it’s easy to feel like you’re deep in the woods, away from concrete and buildings. It’s just over 650 acres between Portland and Lake Oswego, just down the road from Lewis and Clark College. Because it’s so close, it gets a lot of visitors, at last count, about 330 thousand a year.
The trees are massive, which creates a great shade canopy for all the walking trails. Most of them are pretty easy….a couple have a little elevation, but for the most part it’s not super strenuous. There are signs pointing you to one bridge after another. I will describe this park as “tame, but beautiful”. The birds are chirping nonstop, and if you’re quiet you might see a beaver, woodpecker, blacktail deer, rabbits, coyotes, or even a red fox. There is even a nocturnal species of “flying squirrel” that calls the area home. As far as the trees, they’re gorgeous. Douglas Firs, Western Red Cedars, Hemlocks, Alder, Maple, and lots of ferns are a sure sign you’re in the Pacific Northwest. Volunteers work hard on keeping the park beautiful. They spend a lot of time trying to tame the invasive ivy, cherry laurel, and English holly. There’s a group called Friends of Tryon Creek that has helped preserve the area since the 1970s. The area was heavily logged up until the 60’s and has fallen victim to floods and fires. Volunteers are trying really hard to restore salmon and steelhead spawning in the creek, so people and dogs are asked to stay out.
The trails are pretty smooth and there are lots of signs so you don’t get lost. Leashed dogs are allowed and there are horse trails as well. Many of the trails head into neighborhood streets, but others loop around the park –but again, they’re all well marked. At the right time of the year the park is filled with wildflowers—many people go there to see an impressive showing of trillium. The creek has 8 bridges and it feeds into the Willamette year round and you might catch a glimpse of Pacific tree frogs, crawdads, rough-skinned newts, great blue heron, beaver and river otter, as well as a small population of native cutthroat trout. If you’re really lucky – the Pacific giant Salamander!
As for the history of the area, the park is named after Socrates Tryon Jr. who owned the acreage in the mid 19th century then sold them to the Oregon Iron Company in 1874. The forest was heavily logged by iron makers in Lake Oswego in order to make charcoal. Tryon Creek State Natural Area was also once home to several indigenous Chinook tribes, including the Clackamas Chinook, Multnomah and Wasco-Wishram.