National Geographic : 2003 Sep
Sometimes I imagine early America as a sort of lost paradise: a place of boundless forest and riverscape, where farms carved from the wild had room for both wolf and lamb, and men lived in peace with nature-and each other. Things may never have been that good. Yet I've found an echo of my peaceable kingdom in a small piece of Port land, Oregon. It starts on a steep ridge crowned with the coun try's biggest, wildest urban forest; cascades down hillsides of storybook houses and gardens; then hits the Willamette River waterfront, where men and women still sweat the big stuff, wrestling masses of steel, lumber, and grain. It's all with in a ten-minute walk, just off center city. This rich urban ecosystem happened partly by accident. When William Clark (of Lewis and Clark) canoed by in 1806, old-growth trees were plentiful, but within a few years of Port land's start in 1845 so many were gone the place was nicknamed Stumptown. On the heights, up Balch Creek Canyon, some old growth escaped-and when devel opers subdivided nearby denuded slopes in the early 1900s, hoping to build houses, landslides ruined their plans. Oregon's mild, rainy climate did the rest, returning hills to woods. Soon Portland cultivated a new nick name-City of Roses. Today Forest Park, with more than 5,000 acres of trees, 112 species of birds, and 62 species of mammals, dominates zip code 97210.