Dodge Park History - Part of Portland's Culture for 100 Years
Thousands thronged to Dodge Park to cool off on the weekends.
For nearly 100 years, people have flocked to this scenic spot at the confluence of the Sandy and Bull Run rivers. Originally named for the town of Bull Run, Dodge Park was re-named for Frank Dodge, the second Superintendent of the Portland Water Bureau who served from 1897 to 1914. Frank Dodge was one of the earliest photographers who recorded river flows in the Bull Run River and the Bull Run watershed.
In 1911, the Mt. Hood Railway and Power Company was built from Montavilla in east Portland to the town of Bull Run. The rail line was first built to move materials to the powerhouse being built for the Bull Run Hydroelectric Project on the Sandy River. The steam locomotive line served 30 small communities on the way to Dodge Park.
In 1912, the Portland railway Light and Power company acquired the rail line and converted it to an electric trolley.
This electric trolley carried passengers to Dodge Park for nearly two decades.
The annual report for the Portland Water Bureau for 1926 notes that "a conservative estimate of visitors during the last summer would be thirty thousand....At times there was hardly room enough to accommodate the crowds that poured into the Park on Sundays." No less than 168 picnic tables and 72 brick campfire grills as well as stacks of firewood served the weekend crowds.
The trolley, which crossed the Sandy River on a wooden trestle bridge, was also known as the "Picnic Train."
As the handwritten caption states, this photo was taken around 1912.
Trolley service ended in 1930, but roadways and a bridge installed in the 1920s continued to give people access the park.
In the 1940s, the City of Portland established a "Boys and Girls Camp" at Dodge Park in addition to the picnic grounds. The Water Bureau and Portland Parks Bureau co-managed the park until the late 1980s when the Water Bureau took over management for good.
In the 21st century, the Portland Water Bureau's aim is to manage Dodge Park for all visitors to enjoy. The bureau has begun improving many of the park's facilities and structures including comfort stations, picnic and play areas, parking, and signage. The bureau has also developed a coordinated approach to improving the park in the long run with a 10-year Master Plan and updated park policies.
Fishing has always been popular at Dodge Park...with or without poles!