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Canemah Bluff Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View to the paper mill and locks from Canemah Bluff (bobcat)
Common camas (Camassia quamash), Canemah Bluff (bobcat)
Rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta), Canemah Bluff (bobcat)
Cemetery Road, Canemah Bluff (bobcat)
Wagon wheels, Canemah Historic Pioneer Cemetery (bobcat)
The loop at Canemah Bluff as described (bobcat) Courtesy: Metro



A network of trails threads through this Metro property above the volcanic bluffs of the Willamette River: these are formations of 15 million-year-old Wanapum Basalts overlain by two million-year-old Boring lava flows. Some of the routes date back to pre-settler and pioneer days as this was the main portage route around Willamette Falls for those traveling the river. Atop the Canemah Bluff, the oak savannahs bloom with colorful wildflowers in the spring, but the property also extends back into a slope forest of Douglas-fir, grand fir, red alder, and big-leaf maple. The Canemah Pioneer Cemetery contains graves dating back to the mid-19th century, including those of Canemah’s founding family, the Hedges. It should be noted that Metro's logging of Douglas-firs in the area in an attempt to "restore" oak savanna is controversial; some early settler accounts attest to the preponderance of Douglas-fir when Oregon Trail emigrants arrived.

Walk past the restrooms in Canemah Children's Park to get a view down the river to Willamette Falls and the paper mill site. Continue around the fence line and pick up a trail at an interpretive sign informing about the Canemah portage, the bluff-top route that river travelers took to go around the falls before the locks were built. Other interpretive signs at the park tell about early settlers and the Clackamas tribe that called the area home.

Entering Canemah Bluff Nature Park, you'll join the Camas Springs Trail, which parallels the top of the bluffs, following a grassy scabland with oaks, madrones, Douglas-firs, Oregon grape, and clumps of licorice fern. Spring wildflowers here include camas, rosy plectritis, checkermallow, and blue-eyed Mary. A railed viewpoint looks across to the layers of Columbia River basalts on the West Linn side of the river. You may spot ground squirrels and cottontail rabbits in the vicinity. The trail becomes a boardwalk across a dip and then switchbacks left, passing a boulder outcropping festooned with licorice fern to turn into a woodland of Douglas-fir and big-leaf maple. Turn right when you reach the Canemah Historic Pioneer Cemetery Road, and stay on the road at the junction with the Licorice Fern Trail.

In a copse of madrones and oaks, take a trail on a beaten path that leads through the madrones and past vernal pools to the bluff, which is staked with rock nets to protect Highway 99 below. (There are no railings here, so keep a hold on your young children; also watch out for the ubiquitous poison oak.) Back at the road bed, continue to the right and come to the fenced Canemah Pioneer Cemetery. If the gate is open, you can go in and walk around. (There's also a number you can call to get a key for entry.) Canemah was the original portage town here, and was founded by Absalom Hedges, who built a steamboat to ply the river above the Willamette Falls. The tombstones of the Hedges and other pioneer families date back to the mid-19th century.

From the cemetery gate, take the short Spur Trail leading away from the river. In short order, you'll reach the Licorice Fern Trail, where you should bear right, first checking out blooming irises and trillium in the spring. Keep right on the Old Slide Trail where it branches from the Licorice Fern Trail. This wide gravel track heads through the sword ferns around the back of the cemetery. At a drooping maple, turn left at a junction. Circle around to pass a pond shaded by alder, Oregon ash, and maple to your left. The Old Slide Trail then rises up the slope on an old road bed past some impressive grand firs. Another junction tells you to turn left and head up the forested slope.

You'll pass through a thicket of young alders and maples, making a leafy traverse before dropping to a junction with the Licorice Fern Trail. Make a right here to descend gradually past a large, double-trunked cottonwood on the stony bed of an old wagon road. The tread passes a large grand fir and reaches a residential area at a park entrance sign. Walk down 5th Place to 5th Avenue, where you can turn left to return to the park.

At a fork, keep right (to the left is a driveway), and walk past signs welcoming you to the Historic Canemah Cemetery. (One sign might hold the address of the key holder to the cemetery; if there's no address here, you're out of luck.) Hop over a stepover gate, and pass a basalt face dripping with licorice fern. The woods here include Indian plum, wild cherry, and white oak. Turn right on the Frog Pond Trail to pass through the sedges of the seasonal pond and return to the developed area of the park.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Open 5:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.
  • No dogs permitted except on Cemetery Road
  • Stay on the trails
  • Restrooms, picnic tables, playground, interpretive signs


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Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder

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Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.