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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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

22 comments on “There’s a volcano in the heart of Portland, Oregon

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. I grew up about 2 blocks from Mt Tabor, and went to the school just down the street. I can’t even explain that terrifying fear that you get the moment you realize that while ‘extinct’ if it did go off you’d be totally screwed…and then going back to the X-Files without a second thought. Its a great area.

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