PDX Runs: Springwater Corridor
Starting in southeast Portland, the Springwater Corridor follows the Willamette River, then parallels Johnson Creek through neighborhoods, parks, wetlands, and industrial sections.
Small green signposts mark every half-mile along this 21-mile journey, making tracking pace and mileage simple.
Springwater is a long trail, so in this post, I will explain various access points and their surrounding areas. Here's an overview map from the city of Portland.
Entry point #1: Downtown
SE Market & Water Avenue
A well-known “secret” among Portland runners is that the very start (0.0 miles) of the Springwater Corridor is a cyclone-fence gate on the Eastbank Esplanade near the intersection of SE Market Street and SE Water Avenue. Begin your progress on “Springwater” by heading south on the Eastbank Esplanade behind the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). Turn left on SE Carruthers (you have no choice) and make a right on SE 4th Avenue (this is the .5 Mile mark). You will see the gated entrance to the Springwater Corridor straight ahead next to the cement plant. Use this map to guide you through what many PDX runners refer to as the “Gates of Hell,” because they run their tempo runs and long runs on Springwater.
Winding dirt paths parallel the paved corridor from miles 1 to 2. Mile 2 to mile 3.5 of Springwater offers just the paved trail, but also entry-points to new trails and activities. Just before mile marker 2.5, you’ll go by an underpass that marks one entry-point to the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, Portland’s first migratory bird park. This path is paved, so it is accessible by bike. Around mile marker 3 as you continue south on Springwater, you’ll find Oaks Park amusement park to your right and part of the refuge’s wetlands to your left.
If you can resist the temptation of carnival rides and migratory-bird sightings, continue up to mile marker 3.5, where you hit our next destination and trailhead: Sellwood Riverfront Park.
BENEFITS: Best entrance point if coming from downtown via bike or foot. Steps away from a MAX stop.
DRAWBACKS: Limited parking
Entry point #2: Sellwood Riverfront Park Trailhead
SE Oaks Park Way
Start at the beautiful Sellwood Riverfront Park trailhead on SE Oaks Park Way, located at mile 3.5 on Springwater. Before you pick up Springwater again, follow the trails of the dog-friendly Riverfront park for great views of the Willamette. You can also check out Sellwood Park up the hill, and/or add on an out-and-back through the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. The refuge has a pebbly, winding, and slightly hilly path, about a mile long.
After you pass under the Sellwood Bridge, you’ll reach a “dead end” of sorts, as there is a break in the Springwater path. If you continue heading southeast (rather than north 3.5 miles up Springwater to downtown) you have to cut through the Sellwood neighborhood to get back on the Springwater path. Here’s how: Take a left onto SE Umatilla Street, and follow it 0.7 miles until you get to the intersection of Umatilla and 19th Avenue. Take a right on 19th and go 0.2 miles until you reach a sign that tells you to go left to follow the trail (straight ahead, you’ll see the Goodwill outlet store).
After you hang a left, this is a more tranquil part of the trail: The next two miles you’ll journey through wildflowers and six lush green acres of the Tideman Johnson Natural Area.
To access this trailhead, you could park in the neighborhood streets surrounding Sellwood Park.
BENEFITS: Sellwood Park, Riverfront Park, and Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge are great ways to add on some soft-surface mileage. Also, the stretch after the break in the trail through Sellwood is quite pretty.
DRAWBACKS: Cutting through Sellwood/roads after the break in the trail can be not not-so-fun.
BONUS: There’s a fountain in the front yard of the charming Oaks Pioneer Church.
Entry point #3: Johnson Creek Trailhead
(Mile 6.5 on Springwater)
Ditch your car at the (free) parking lot at the intersection of Springwater and SE Johnson Creek Boulevard. This next stretch of Springwater continues east along Johnson creek as it winds through neighborhoods. Every half mile or so from here the trail intersects with a road, so watch out for stop signs and traffic!
When you get to the intersection of SE Johnson Creek and SE Bell Street, you have to cut across the street diagonally (following crosswalks and streetlights, of course).
Right after crossing SE Harney Street around mile 8.5, stop at Cartlandia to check out the food-cart superpod, which hosts more than 28 different vendors.
After crossing SE 92nd Avenue the Springwater Corridor path goes under I-205. The I-205 bike path intersects with the Springwater Corridor here. You could hang a left and run all the way to Vancouver, WA, if you like.
After you emerge from the intersection of Springwater and 136th Avenue, you’ll get a glimpse of Mt. Hood on a clear day. Seriously, I wasn’t expecting this on my initial run, and the sight truly took my breath away (which is hard when you’re exercising, I suppose). Once you hit this view, you’re only half a mile from the southern entrance to Powell Butte Nature Park.
Continuing east, you’re heading straight for the heart of Gresham. The Linneman Station Trailhead sits right before mile 14, and the Hogan Road Trailhead is near mile 17.5.
BENEFITS: Free and accessible parking lot. Reasonable distance to choose to run toward downtown, or to continue east.
DRAWBACKS: Stay alert and try to run/bike/walk with a buddy. There are lots of road crossings, and some path users may be uncomfortable passing through trailside encampments.