In honor of Portland’s newly minted ‘sixth quadrant’, our self-led hike this week will explore South Portland.
Name: South Portland Loop
Neighborhood: South Portland, Portland Downtown
Distance: 3.39 Miles
Elevation Change: 154 ft
Start/End Location: Corner of SW Kelly Ave, and SW Curry St
Map Links: Mobile* Browser
This is a categorically urban walk through the most densely populated area of Portland. While this is not a typical SWTrails-style hike along sheltered park trails or a secluded right-of-way, it is a really interesting tour of a unique and overlooked neighborhood. Highlights include exceptional architecture, an original Carnegie library, the South Portland historic District, and Portland’s Waterfront Parks! It is the story of an immigrant neighborhood that has been forever changed by transportation infrastructure. This route is featured as “Walk 11” in the book “Portland City Walks”, written by Laura Foster. (available for purchase here).
For a fully guided description of the history at every turn, begin your journey on page 153 of Portland City Walks.
Note that this route entails subgrade road crossings, an elevated pedestrian walkway, a stroll under a freeway, an unimproved roadway, a few stretches along busy roads, and an optional crossing of Naito Parkway. However, it also allows you to visit uniquely historic parts of our city with the benefit of a well- written handbook to guide you.
To start, find your way to the intersection of Corbett Ave. and Curry St. The walk begins by heading north on Corbett Ave. to Grover St. Go west (left) on Grover, which runs adjacent to the bridge ramps at the ironically named ‘Failing School.’ Continue along Grover St. to the stairs that lead to Naito Parkway. Walk north along Naito to Hooker St. and use the pedestrian walkway to cross Naito. From Hooker, turn right on 2nd to Meade St. On Meade, a concrete sidewalk curves up the hill to the left through Marquam Gulch. (The book discuses in great detail the significance of this one-block detour). From Hooker St., continue west to Barbur Blvd at Lair Hill Park (the site of South Portland’s Carnegie Library). Continue along Barbur Blvd as it crosses Broadway and the I-405 freeway and turns into 4th Ave. Stay northbound on 4th and turn right on Lincoln St, walking down its north side. Just past the first building on the left, the Parkside Center, turn left onto a paved promenade between the buildings. Follow the promenade for roughly five city blocks across the Portland State University Campus and Lovejoy park to Mill St. Turn left on Mill, followed by an immediate right onto 4th. Stay on 4th for one block before bisecting Ira Keller Fountain park to enjoy its novel people-centric design. Exit the park at the Northeast corner of 3rd and Clay Streets and turn right onto Clay. Walk three blocks along Clay to Naito Parkway and enter Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Once you are in the park, stop to enjoy the geese, then head to the river and turn right, walking in front of the riverside shops at RiverPlace. Stay on the Harborside path until you reach the Marquam Bridge. At this point you can consider an alternate route back to your starting point (see below for details).
Should you decide to stick with the primary route, turn right and emerge onto River Parkway (in front of the Residence Inn). Cross Moody Ave. at the light and continue along River Parkway. Cross Harbor Dr. at the light and walk a few steps along Harrison St. before turning onto a sidewalk that takes you to a dead-end of Water Ave. in front of the International School. From the dead-end, walk south on Water to Baker St. (crossing under I-405). Turn right onto Baker, an unimproved stretch that leads uphill for one block to the return of Water Ave. Continue along Water Ave. to Arthur St. This is where it becomes an urban adventure: at Arthur and Kelley St., the long-established route along Arthur St. becomes a tangle of four speeding lanes that lead to and from the Ross Island bridge. There is a beastly subterranean passage that lets a pedestrian cross Arthur underground, or you can carefully cross an entrance ramp to Naito and come to the intersection of Arthur and 1st Ave. Turn left onto 1st and reenter the South Portland Historic District. This twenty-block area was slated to be leveled in 1968 and rebuilt with low-density apartments. Fortunately for us, it was preserved and is swarming with local history. Stay on 1st Ave. for roughly seven blocks to Whitaker St. Turn left onto Whitaker St. then carefully Cross Naito Pkwy to follow it back to Corbett where it all began.
Alternate Route from Marquam Bridge back to the Start: If, by this point you are through learning about South Portland history and prefer to walk along the water, a path along the waterfront beyond the Marquam bridge is now open. To follow this route (shown with a dashed red line on the map) simply continue south beside the river along the South Waterfront Park Trail (adjacent to Bond Ave.) to the Tilikum Crossing. At Tilikum Crossing go right to Moody, then walk south along Moody Ave. to the OHSU Waterfront Campus. At Gibbs St., turn right and climb the stairs to the Hooley Bridge, which will take you over I-5. Once across the bridge, find your way back to where you began. For an even longer adventure, this is a great starting place for the world-famous 4T Trail. The Tram and Trolley (two of the “4T’s”) connect at here at Moody and Gibbs Streets!
You have likely traversed this area hundreds of times while speeding by on I-5 or Barbur. This walk allows you to slow down and discover the enduring history of South Portland—all while learning how a neighborhood is forever changed by highways and will continue to change through continuing development.
This route and portions of the narrative were copied in whole or part with permission from the author: Foster, Laura O., (2008), Portland City Walks. Portland, OR: Timber Press.