Neglected Sacred Springs of Portland

There are natural springs in the West Hills of Portland that are allowed to flow over sidewalks and street pavements into storm sewers. It is a real shame that few people who live near them give them any respect. Unfortunately some of these springs also run though people’s basements and cause foundation problems and make basements unpleasant. Some springs that have long been neglected are completely out of view and run into ravines or directly into the storm sewers. It is a little sad to see this since they used to be the water supply for farms and residences in the west hills prior to the installation of city water lines.

I worked on cleaning one spring basin out , below the actual source that is buried so it is now the location where the spring flows. It is not an upwelling spring. I have seen some of those down in the ravines where they must have gravity feed to flow up above the ground level line. The one I worked on flows all year long but does slow down in the summer . It is not a major spring but does provide a source for a small creek that runs down the ravines toward the river. There are other springs near by that flow all year long over road beds and side walks. It is a shame that no indication of the spring is given with a small pool recognizing its existence. Natural springs have been at the heart of ancient shrines and temples time immemorial and here in Portland they are mostly wasted as water features of little or no value. In the winder some of these springs become ice slicks across the top of the road and sidewalk pavements. The neighborhood sees no value in channeling these springs. Niches could be carved out in the walls from where they emerge from the ground or pipe them on the level to a lower site on the hill where the water can fall in some sort of fountain. Instead the water makes a mess and goes down the storm drains eventually. I am curious if any one has tested the water for it’s potability from the various springs. There is not a lot of attention given to these springs but maybe a little bit should be.

I did learn that the spring that I helped clean out really had formerly been a water supply for a west hills farm before the encroachment of the city. The spring was originally filled up with deep silty material that is unlike the clay soil in the area. Once clean the water is not stagnant and does not have mosquito’s living it in as the water flows though constantly. I could have made it bigger but there was no room for a pond. From the point at which I worked on cleaning it it flows back into the ground and re-emerges in a stream below that does flow down the hill into a year round private concrete bottom pond on a neighboring property and from there it flow down in to the creek that flows down the ravine.

Once the natural feature of a spring is revealed it is something that much more worthwhile than water sitting in an ugly year round mud puddle. I would like to work on carving out some wall niches for springs in some of the other areas where I have found them if anyone else takes an interest in restoring some of the old neglected springs of the West Hills of Portland. I am sure there are even more interesting springs in back yards that are neglected. If you have a muddy spot that says muddy all year long do consider digging it out to reveal the sacred potential of having a natural spring for being what it is. Going from year round mud to a spot of clear water is not a big thing but it is something worthwhile if you can see it or save the water from just going from a crack in the ground into a storm drain. Running water over concrete pavements is a waste of the potential. These small springs are also possible future resources. I see them as neglected natural treasures. To clean the spring out that I worked on took a little more digging than expected because there is so much of the mysterious silt that is associated with it. It also takes some annual cleaning because falling leaves just muck it up if not removed. springs set on ledges in wall niches would be somewhat immune from leaves falling into them.

Got a spring to restore? Dig a trial area and wait to see if it fill up with clear water before going and doing more. The next step is to consider what might be possible. If you have an upwelling spring that is gravity fed those are even more sacred and interesting. Those tend to have been given more care than the ones that have been neglected. Some others are completely buried under the pavement. There is one location where a spring is known to form a pond where I saw dragon flies—an indicator of quite a lot of water flow and a major pond. The strange thing about the location is that it is on a hillside that seems too steep for a pond to be.. The City of Portland recently restored the tanner creek spring or creek in the pearl district . That is just a larger scale version of the same thing with the smaller springs in the hills sides.

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