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Get ready to dive into Portland's water story with Bull Run Watershed Tours! Join us for an immersive journey tracing the path of your drinking water, from pristine forest to your faucet. Embark on an adventure led by knowledgeable natural resources educators who will unveil the secrets of the Bull Run Watershed. Explore the Columbia South Shore Well Field before delving deep into the heart of the watershed. Learn about Portland's innovative water system in an engaging and accessible way, suitable for all ages and backgrounds. Discover the wonders of nature and the vital role it plays in providing clean, fresh water to our city. Whether you're a curious local or a visitor eager to learn, this tour promises a day filled with fun, education, and a deeper appreciation for the water that sustains us all. Don't miss out—book your spot today and get ready to embark on a water adventure like no other!​

What to Expect:

- 8:15 am: Meet at Barn Exhibit Hall

- 8:30 am: Bus departure

- Explore the Columbia South Shore Well Field

- Trek through ancient forests in Bull Run Watershed

- Lunch at the Historic Bear Creek House with a view of Dam 1 and Reservoir 1

- Tour the 1929 concrete dam and adjacent forest

- Drive across the 1962 earth and rock fill dam

- Discover the diverse aquatic life of lower Bull Run River

Event Details:

- Date: Sunday, July 21st, 2024

- Time: 8:15 am - 4:30 pm

- Location: Barn Exhibit Hall Museum

- Cost: $40 for Troutdale Historical Society members, $50 for non-members



Exploring the Bull Run Watershed: Oregon's Pristine Water Source


Nestled in the lush forests of the Mount Hood National Forest, the Bull Run Watershed is a hidden gem that plays a crucial role in the daily lives of Portland residents. Covering approximately 102 square miles, this pristine area is the primary source of drinking water for the city, providing some of the purest water in the United States. Let's dive into the fascinating history, ecological significance, and some fun facts about this vital watershed.


A Rich History


The Bull Run Watershed has been a protected area since the late 19th century. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison established the Bull Run Reserve, prohibiting public entry and preserving the area specifically for water supply purposes. This foresight has ensured that the watershed remains untouched by urban development, maintaining its natural state.


In 1904, the Bull Run water system began delivering water to Portland. The original system used gravity to move water from the watershed to the city, a method still in use today, though modernized. This historic approach is not only energy-efficient but also helps maintain the water's high quality.


Ecological Significance


The Bull Run Watershed is home to diverse flora and fauna. The old-growth forests, dominated by towering Douglas firs, western hemlocks, and red cedars, create a unique ecosystem. These forests provide habitat for a variety of wildlife, including black bears, cougars, elk, and northern spotted owls.


The watershed's rivers and streams are vital for local fish populations. The Bull Run River, along with its tributaries, supports species such as coho and chinook salmon, steelhead, and cutthroat trout. The preservation of these waterways ensures the survival of these fish species, many of which are critical to the region's ecological balance.


Fun Facts


1. Pristine Water Quality: The Bull Run Watershed is so well-protected that its water requires minimal treatment before reaching Portland residents. This is a rare feat in the United States, where most urban water supplies require extensive purification.


2. Gravity-Fed System: The Bull Run water system primarily relies on gravity to transport water from the watershed to Portland. This system, over a century old, is a testament to the ingenuity of early engineers and remains highly efficient.


3. Limited Access: Public access to the Bull Run Watershed is highly restricted to protect the water supply. However, the Portland Water Bureau offers occasional tours, allowing visitors a rare glimpse into this protected area.


4. Fire Management: Fire is a natural part of the forest ecosystem, but in the Bull Run Watershed, fire management is critical to protecting the water supply. The Portland Water Bureau has strict protocols in place to prevent and manage wildfires in the area.


5. Historic Infrastructure: Some of the original infrastructure, including pipelines and dams, is still in use today. The Headworks, the primary intake facility built in the early 20th century, continues to be a crucial component of the water system.


The Future of Bull Run


As Portland continues to grow, the Bull Run Watershed remains a cornerstone of the city's infrastructure. Ongoing efforts to protect and preserve this natural resource are essential to maintaining the high-quality water supply. The Portland Water Bureau is also exploring sustainable practices and infrastructure improvements to ensure that Bull Run continues to serve future generations.


In conclusion, the Bull Run Watershed is not just a water source; it's a vital part of Oregon's natural heritage. Its history, ecological importance, and the sheer beauty of its untouched landscapes make it a treasure worth protecting. Next time you take a sip of Portland's tap water, remember the Bull Run Watershed and the remarkable journey that water has taken to reach you.

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