Macleay Park, Balch Creek, Portland Oregon

Jer has moved on to researching another urban stream, Balch Creek, which runs through Forest Park, the large strip of greenery that tops the hills west of the center city. Balch Creek is named for Danford Balch, who held a homestead in the bottomlands of the creek, just about where Macleay Park is located. Balch was known, not just for his pioneering status, but also for being the first Oregonian to be legally hung for murder.

In the early 1900s, the Balch Creek area was described as a “romantic wooded ravine.” Wooded it still is, and for 2/3 of its length it flows through a ravine. These photos were taken in Macleay Park at the foot of the West Hills.

some vistas, it still can be romantic. It is, however, an urban stream and so, inevitably, the urban archeologist has other tales to tell:

At one point, the path crossed the stream on these now-derelict structures, now fenced off and left to rot. It also looks like the WPA was around, making walls.

Immediately below this wall, the creek runs into a huge grate, and from there on until it gets to the Willamette River, at least a mile away, it’s completely piped. The pipe goes under the large industrial area now built on what was once Guild’s Lake. But Guild’s Lake is a different story for a different day.

The sun was shining on this landscape and although it wasn’t exactly romantic, it was a perfect day for painting. And so I have my Macleay Park pleine aire painting. I was looking from the base of the park toward the ravine, and completely ignored the stream and its artifacts, preferring the Thurman Bridge and the sculptures that grace the lawn in the park. But that’s for another day. –June

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2 Responses to Macleay Park, Balch Creek, Portland Oregon

  1. June says:

    Hi Janet,

    The story of Danford Balch is pretty grotesque. He had a homestead next to a family named, I believe, “Stump.” The son Stump fell in love with the daughter, Danford, and they eloped to Vancouver Washington to get married. Danford was enraged by this. He met his son-in-law at some ferry and discharged a shotgun at him. Although he claimed it was an accident, he was found guilty of murder and hung. So Balch and Stump, an Oregon Romeo and Juliet story, complete with a ferry and Vancouver (Washington). Romance lives in them thar hills.


  2. Janet says:

    Jer really goes for the good names, doesn’t he? Now that he’s all done with the tick marsh, he’s moved on the “Balch” creek!


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