There’s a volcano in the heart of Portland, Oregon

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One of the things that most surprised me about Portland was the presence of a volcano, making it one of only three cities in the U.S. with a volcano within city limits. Oh no! What if it erupts and wipes outs millions of vegan bike-riders?

Don’t worry, Mount Tabor is extinct, meaning it won’t erupt again – although I wonder how they can be so sure about that, since there are plenty of documented instances of supposedly dormant or extinct volcanoes erupting. It’s been 300,000 years since the cinder cones in Oregon had a lava flow, so I suppose we can safely say Mt. Tabor is not going to erupt.

Mt. Tabor in SE Portland has been turned into a park of the same name, with hiking trails, basketball and tennis courts, horseshoe pits and more. How many park signs have you seen with an arrow pointing towards the volcano? I love how nonchalant they are about it. It’s just another feature in the park. Picnic area… playground… volcano. No big deal!

mount tabor park sign

Mt. Tabor is a volcanic cinder cone and was named after the Mt. Tabor in Israel. Nobody even discovered there was an old volcano here until 1912, a year after the first park was established. The park covers 190 acres and the elevation is 636 feet, so it’s not super-tall, but it does provide nice views of downtown Portland.

portland skyline

Near the top of the park sits an imposing statue, but it doesn’t honor a president or important historic or civil rights leader. Instead, the bronze statue depicts Harvey W. Scott, the editor of the Oregonian newspaper in the late 1800s. Journalists getting their own statues?!

The statue was sculpted by Gutzon Borglum in the early 1930s, while he was working on Mt. Rushmore at the same time.

harvey w scott statue

I spent most of my time getting a taste of nature by hiking on the trails. It’s not easy to get lost here, with color-coded signs pointing the way and numerous trails that intersect.

mt tabor woods

The park has an off-leash area for dogs, so between the animal lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, it can be a pretty busy place. Mount Tabor Park is located at SE 60th Ave. and Salmon St. It’s a cool place to spend an afternoon!

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20 Responses to There’s a volcano in the heart of Portland, Oregon

  1. John of Travel Rinse Repeat May 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    I had no idea there was a volcano in Portland when I visited – haha totally missed that. Very cool feature of the city though.
    John of Travel Rinse Repeat recently posted..Confessions of a State Collector

    • Scott May 15, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

      I don’t think it’s necessarily a well-known fact!

  2. Christy @ Technosyncratic May 14, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    Ha, Portland has everything! We’re heading there this weekend, so we’ll have to check this place out… then I can say I’ve stood on a volcano (and leave out the part that it’s extinct, lol).
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..Photo(s) of the Week: Bagnères-de-Luchon in the French Pyrénées

    • Scott May 15, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

      Enjoy the volcano. I hope you get good weather!

  3. inka May 15, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    Like you, I’m a bit doubtful about so-called extinct volcanos. What if they make up their mind to give the complacent citizens a surprise??? Amazing though to find a volcano within city limits.
    inka recently posted..Cappadocia Trip – Day One

    • Scott May 15, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

      And so many people don’t even know it’s there!

  4. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista May 15, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    This park looks beautiful! There is quite a lot of volcanic remnants in Oregon. South east of Portland near the Sisters area is a volcanic destruction area where astronauts train for moon landings! It is very interesting.
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted..Catalonia – Spain’s Best Kept Secret?

    • Scott May 15, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

      Cool, I didn’t know about the astronaut connection!

  5. Michaela @ Awe Inclusive May 15, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    The park looks really pretty and peaceful. You must have picked the perfect day/time to go. The volcano does make the park more exciting – even if it hasn’t erupted in forever. :-)
    Michaela @ Awe Inclusive recently posted..Alternative Accomodation Ideas When Staying in London

    • Scott May 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

      I think it was a pretty nice day. They get a lot of rain there, so waiting for good weather is key :)

  6. InsideJourneys May 16, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    Wow, I had no idea there was a volcano in Portland. Interesting. I agree with you – don’t know that I’d feel comfortable with a volcano nearby even an extinct one.
    It’s a lovely park though and the view is stunning.
    InsideJourneys recently posted..Jamaica’s Also Great for Bird Watching

    • Scott May 16, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

      It’s especially scary considering that not far away, Mt St Helens erupted in 1980.

    • fred January 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

      I have lived in portland for 35 years. Iseen mt st helin blow up too times . It was the most I ever seen mother earth do it was what man will never be abel to do

  7. Ayelet - All Colores May 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    It’s funny how nonchalant they are about it! And it’s interesting that it’s named after Mount Tabor in Israel (of all places). Adding this to my volcanoes-to-see list :)
    Ayelet – All Colores recently posted..On My Bucket List: A Dream Birthday Trip to the North Pole

    • Scott May 16, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

      I hope you make it there someday!

  8. The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) May 21, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    Wow, I had no idea there was an extinct volcano in Portland! I did think it was pretty awesome, though, that I could see Mt. St. Helens from my hotel window in Portland. I always forget there is actual volcanic activity in that part of the U.S. Glad to see you featuring such a great place this month! LOVE Portland!
    The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) recently posted..5 things to know before eating another Churro

    • Scott May 23, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

      Yes, you never know where you may find old volcanoes!

  9. Rick Terrell September 14, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

    As a kid, I grew up in the 1960’s living and playing on the slopes of Mt. Tabor! They built a parking lot right over the caldera! I always thought that would make the Volcano mad and that it would erupt again to get the asphalt off its back! I’m 57 years old now, and live in Maui Hawaii and I still think Mt.Tabor is still angry about that. We used to do skits on the outdoor stage near the caldera, (I wonder if the stage is still there???) I was part of a free Craft’s Program that they held for young children in the Park in the summertime up there. The skit was a Show that we put on for our parents. So many hours and fond memories I spent and have of that Park. Born and raised in beautiful Portland Oregon and proud of it. Rick T.

    • Scott Shetler September 17, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

      That sounds like a cool experience growing up, Rick. It’s disappointing they built a parking lot on top – I can see why the volcano would be mad after that! Thanks for sharing your story.

  10. Kris April 28, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

    According to the USGS, there are 80 lava vents, lava flows, and cinder cones in the Portland/Vancouver (Portland Basin) area. Some of the lava cones inside the city of Portland’s city limits on the east side are: Mt. Tabor, Powell Butte, Kelly Butte, Mt. Scott, and Rocky Butte.

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