For most of my life, I thought Portland was on the Pacific Ocean, or at least on an adjoining bay or harbor. In fact, it's quite a ways inland and not at all a coastal city. But Portland is a river city--it actually reminds me a lot of Pittsburgh where I grew up. They also get a lot of rain (though not in midsummer when we'll be there!) and it all makes for a very water-oriented place.
I spent a month in Portland in the summer of 2008, and these are a few of my sketches of water features, natural and human-made.
The Willamette River chops right through town, separating the East side from the West side. A bit south of downtown is the still-active Ross Island Sand and Gravel Company. Here's a view of their works, as viewed from the Springwater Corridor Trail as it emerges from Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge.
That such a mix of the natural and industrial exists mid-city nearby to residential and commercial neighborhoods is, well, very Portland!
The Columbia river forms the northern border of the city and also acts as the state-line between Oregon and Washington. It's a bigger river but adjoins much less populated parts of town than the Willamette. The two rivers converge a bit north of the city (but an easy bicycle ride away) around Sauvie Island. I sketched this beach scene there:
I suspect that most river pictures of Portland feature a bridge or two (or five). The bridges are quite indeed sketchable. But I'll save my bridge sketches for another post.
Portland is also home to some tremendously cool public fountains, fountains that the public are very much encouraged to get wet in! On a hot summer's day, can you imagine anything better in the middle of downtown than Ira's Fountain?
I can't even imagine Ira's Fountain--with its cliffs, falls, and pools--being legal anywhere else in the US. If you want a mellower fountain, perhaps you'd prefer Jamison Square, which has its very own artificial tides.
(The Salmon Street Springs fountain is also lots of fun. I don't have a sketch of it, but check out the one Gabi did.)