Oregon City is a gem for those willing to take the time to look. Over the past 8 years I have been able to observe this place that from the highway might seem unremarkable. Driving along Hwy 99 or even crossing the Oregon City Bridge, it's really difficult to see much besides concrete and businesses.
But if you take a half a day, get out of your car and spend some time walking around the city, you will be surprised at what you find, and how you can connect with its rich history, both natural and man-made. It's as easy as starting at the Oregon City Elevator, which is free to ride and provides a great view of the city. From there you can explore the city on foot.
If you start on top of the bluff, parking on High Street, you can walk along the McLoughlin Promenade from the Oregon City Elevator. The promenade takes you all the way to the Willamette Falls overlook on HWY 99 by way of a foot bridge over the highway.
From there you can either backtrack to the elevator or walk along the highway, crossing over the tunnel back to downtown. The bluff is a safer and more pleasant walk, especially for those with kids as there isn't a wide path and there is no barrier between the sidewalk and the very loud and fast moving highway traffic.
Once you are back at the elevator, you can take the time to cross the Oregon City Bridge and look upriver at Willamette Falls or back toward the elevator downtown. If you time it right, you'll be able to watch the sun set over the falls, and before or afterwards you can grab wood fired pizza at Mi Famiglia Restaurant, get some terrific pho at Pho Thai Restaurant, or settle into one of the many other options for food and drink downtown. Check out the Downtown Oregon City website for more ideas of activities and where to dine.
Minutes from downtown, there is history to be learned and lots of ways to reconnect with the first incorporated city west of the Rocky Mountains. You can brush up on your Oregon history at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and the Museum of the Oregon Territory, both of which are terrific.
One other exciting opportunity to look forward to is the potential to "Rediscover the Falls," which is a community driven effort to reconnect the community with the natural feature that has drawn people to this region for thousands of years.
So take some time, plan a trip, and come see one of the underrated gems in the Portland Metro area. If you do, you'll get to appreciate some of the beauty that you can't see from the highway, and in the process, experience a place you might have otherwise overlooked.
Canvas, metal, and photographic paper prints of my Oregon City photo series are available on my Prints page, or you can contact me directly by email and I can help you find a size and format to make a great gift for someone who loves Oregon.
You can also find me and other great local Oregon City area artists on the Three Rivers Artist Guild website or at one of our local Galleries or Art Shows. Our upcoming Holiday show at the Pioneer Community Center this weekend is great and you can meet local artists and find gift ideas all in one stop.