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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-7529

1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR 97204

More Contact Info

South Waterfront Park
Water gardens
South Waterfront Park
1814-1816 SW River Parkway Locate this site in PortlandMaps

General Info
Acreage: 4.31
Acquired in 1999

Includes accessible restroom, canoe launch, paths - paved, and statue or public art.
Accessible Restroom Canoe Launch Paths - Paved Statue Or Public Art

Special Information
Park hours: 5:00am-midnight

Historical Information
Beginning with the demolition of Harbor Drive, a six-lane roadway that separated the river from downtown, Tom McCall Waterfront Park has been developed in multiple phases over the past 25 years. Portland's 25-year dream of reclaiming its waterfront was realized with the completion of South Waterfront Park which runs 1,000 feet along the bank of the Willamette River. Unique along the downtown riverfront, South Waterfront Park provides direct public access to the river throughout the year.

Developed primarily to anchor the commercial and residential property built in the mid-1990s, the park also served to stem any further erosion of the river bank that occurred during the 1996 winter flood. Once the site of a lumber mill and the City's steam plant, the park was designed by the landscape architectural firm of Walker Macy. The esplanade meanders the full length of the riverbank, mirroring the course of the river. Historically the street grid of Portland extended directly to the river's edge to facilitate access and commerce. Today the city's block grid extends through South Waterfront Park to the water's edge via walkways leading to overlooks with views of the river, the city, Mt Hood, and Mt St Helens. The form of the river is carried up into the park via the flowing forms of the site grading and planting, as well as a pair of boulder-lined pathways sculpted into the riverbank leading to a natural silty beach that is exposed at the base of these pathways during periods of low water.

The basalt, concrete, and steel sculpture by Mathieu Gregoire, River Shift, reflects the historical progression of the riverbank with his use of local basalt and remnants of the concrete piers and reinforcements excavated from the old waterfront site. As the basalt pieces progress from berm to river, they tip over, so that the concrete below becomes exposed and the basalt becomes submerged and eventually disappears.
The concrete is cut in various places to expose the river rock aggregate inside as well as the old embedded wood piers, and some of the heavy steel reinforcement emerges like roots.