Mount Tabor (Oregon)

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Downtown Portland, with Mount Tabor (center) and Mount Hood in the distance

Mount Tabor is an extinct[1][2] or dormant volcanic vent,[3] the city park on the volcano, and the neighborhood of Southeast Portland that surrounds it, all in Oregon. The name refers to Mount Tabor, Israel. It was named by Plympton Kelly, son of Oregon City pioneer resident Clinton Kelly.[4]

Cinder cone[edit]

Cinder cone cut-away

The peak of Mount Tabor is 636 feet (194 m) in elevation;[5] about two-thirds of this is prominence since the surrounding land is about 200 feet (61 m) elevation.[6]

Mount Tabor Park
Mount Tabor (Oregon) is located in Oregon
Mount Tabor (Oregon)
Location Roughly bounded by S.E. Division Street, S.E. 60th Avenue, S.E. Yamhill Street, and S.E. Mountainview Drive, Portland, Oregon
Coordinates 45°30′41″N 122°35′39″W / 45.51139°N 122.59417°W / 45.51139; -122.59417Coordinates: 45°30′41″N 122°35′39″W / 45.51139°N 122.59417°W / 45.51139; -122.59417
Built 1903
Architect Emanuel Tillman Mische, Charles P. Keyser
Architectural style Late Victorian, Late 19th And 20th Century Revivals
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference # 04001065[7]
Added to NRHP September 22, 2004

Near the peak, where a basketball court and outdoor amphitheater are now situated, part of the cinder cone has been cut away, and the rock is visible to park visitors. The remaining cinders were used to pave the nearby parking lot.

The Tabor cinder cone is part of the Boring Lava Field, an extensive network of cinder cones and small shield volcanoes ranging from Boring, Oregon to southwest Washington, and dating to the Plio-Pleistocene era. The lava field has been extinct for over 300,000 years.[8] Three other cinder cones from this field also lie within the city of Portland: Rocky Butte, Powell Butte, and Kelly Butte.

Portland is one of four cities in the United States to have an extinct volcano (Mount Tabor) within its boundaries. Bend is the only other city in Oregon with a volcano within its city limits, with Pilot Butte.[9][10] Jackson Volcano in Jackson, Mississippi and Diamond Head in Honolulu being the others.

The volcanic nature of Mount Tabor became known in 1912, years after reservoirs and a public park were developed on it.


Mount Tabor Park Reservoirs Historic District
Nearest city Portland, Oregon
Coordinates 45°30′39″N 122°35′44″W / 45.51083°N 122.59556°W / 45.51083; -122.59556
Built 1894
Architect Isaac Smith, et al.
Architectural style Romanesque
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference # 03001446[7]
Added to NRHP January 15, 2004

The 196-acre (0.79-km²) Mount Tabor Park does not appear to have ever been formally ordained by the City as a park. According to archival records, an ordinance declaring Williams Park, named for a prominent citizen, was stopped by neighborhood activists wanting the historic name, Mt. Tabor Park, to be retained. No other ordinance appears to have been enacted to date. The entire park, including the Central Maintenance Yard, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places[11] in 2004. The nomination was forwarded by a community effort spearheaded and funded by the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association. Mt. Tabor Park is known for its reservoirs, three of which were accepted to the National Register of Historic Places in January 2004.[12][13] The reservoirs' nomination was also a community effort spearheaded by the Friends of the Reservoirs and funded by donations. The park was designed, along with other Portland parks, by Emanuel Tillman Mische, a highly pedigreed horticulturist and long-time landscape designer for the famed Olmsted Brothers landscape firm.[14] John Charles Olmsted, stepson and nephew of the famed Frederick Law Olmsted, visited Portland in 1903 to help design the site for the Lewis and Clark World Exposition, on the request of Rev. Thomas Lamb Eliot, minister of the First Unitarian Church and relative of Charles Eliot, the son of the president of Harvard University and acclaimed landscape architect and partner in the Olmsted landscape firm in Brookline, Massachusetts. Rev. Eliot arranged for Olmsted to visit Seattle for park planning, too, in order to help make the long trip financially feasible. While John Charles Olmsted was in Portland, Rev. Eliot and other park supporters took him on a tour throughout the city so that he could create a grand plan of parks. Mt. Tabor Park was the largest Portland park until 1947 when Forest Park was created. The land making up the Mt. Tabor volcanic butte was identified for a park in the 1880s due to its ideal elevation for a water distribution system. City fathers formed a water committee and created a municipal water system piping water some 25 miles from the Bull Run River watershed, separate and west of Mt. Hood, to Mt. Tabor reservoirs and across the Willamette River to City Park reservoirs (now Washington Park) in 1894. The Bull Run watershed was among the first federal lands to be set aside in the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 and enacted by president Benjamin Harrison.

The Mount Tabor reservoirs were built during the period of 1894 and 1911, along with reservoirs in Washington Park. The reservoirs and their gatehouses are artistically constructed, incorporating extensive reinforced concrete, designed to look like stonework, by two early patented techniques by noted engineer Ernest L. Ransome[15] and wrought-iron fencing and lampposts designed by noted architect William M. Whidden. There were initially four above-ground reservoirs, numbered 1, 2, 5, and 6. (Reservoirs 3 and 4 are at Washington Park, and Reservoir 7 is a small underground reservoir near Mount Tabor's summit.) Reservoir 2, on the corner of SE 60th and Division, was decommissioned in the 1980s, and the property was sold to a private developer. Its gatehouse remains, and is used as a private residence. Reservoir 6 is the largest, with two 37 million gallon chambers; it also contains a fountain, which was unused for many years; however, it was reactivated in early 2007.[16]

The park features a statue of The Oregonian editor Harvey W. Scott.[17] The larger-than-life statue was sculpted by Gutzon Borglum, notable for sculptures on Mount Rushmore.[17] The bronze statue was dedicated on July 22, 1933, with approximately 3000 in attendance, 23 years after Scott died.[17] Oregon governor Julius Meier was chairman of the event, and Chester Harvey Rowell gave a speech.[17]

Reservoir problems[edit]

Mount Tabor Reservoir

These reservoirs, according to Portland's NBC affiliate KGW, are not filtered. This came to light June 30, 2008 when KGW reported two people were caught skinny dipping in one of the offline reservoirs the night of June 29. Reservoir officials say it's fortunate this particular reservoir was offline at the time, because draining and refilling it would have cost tens of thousands of dollars. Creating covers for the reservoirs has been proposed in the past but would cost the city about $500 million.[18] The uncovered reservoirs were again in the news in early December 2009 when an E. coli outbreak warning was issued for Portland tap water. Residents were urged to boil the water they use for drinking and washing dishes.[19]

On June 15, 2011, a man was observed urinating in a nearly 8,000,000 gallon reservoir, prompting city officials to drain the water at a cost of around $36,000.[20]

View of Portland from Mount Tabor
Gatehouse of the now-defunct Reservoir 2, on the National Register of Historic Places.
Harvey W. Scott Statue in Mt. Tabor Park

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jim E. O'Connor; Rebecca J. Dorsey, Ian P. Madin (May 14, 2012). Volcanoes to Vineyards: Geologic Field Trips Through the Dynamic Landscape. p. 260. Retrieved 2012-12-10. "All Boring volcanic centers are extinct, but the Boring Volcanic Field presumably is not. The most recent eruptions in Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area occurred ~100,000 years ago and the age of the youngest dated center, Beacon Rock at the east edge of the Boring Volcanic Field, is 57 ka." 
  2. ^ Scott (May 14, 2012). "There’s a volcano in the heart of Portland, Oregon". Quirky Travel Guy. Retrieved 2012-12-10. 
  3. ^ "Mount Tabor Seismic Stability Analysis, Portland, Oregon". Portland, Oregon: Cornforth Consultants. 2009. Retrieved 2012-12-10. "... are built on the upper slopes of Mount Tabor, a dormant volcanic vent." 
  4. ^ McArthur, Lewis A.; Lewis L. McArthur (2003) [1928]. Oregon Geographic Names (Seventh Edition ed.). Portland, Oregon: Oregon Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87595-278-X. 
  5. ^ "Mount Tabor". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2010-12-13. 
  6. ^ "USGS topographic map centered at Mount Tabor". 
  7. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  8. ^ Charles A. Wood; Jűrgen Kienle (1990). Volcanoes of North America. Cambridge University Press. pp. 170–172. 
  9. ^ "Guide to the Mount Tabor Neighborhood". Retrieved 2010-12-13. 
  10. ^ Karl Samson (2010). Frommer's Oregon. Frommer's. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-470-53771-8. 
  11. ^ "Historic Districts in Multnomah County, Oregon". 
  12. ^ "Oregon Historic Sites Database". Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  13. ^ "Oregon Historic Sites Database". Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  14. ^ "The Olmsteds in the Pacific Northwest: The Art of Landscape Design". Retrieved 2011-06-04. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Terpstra, Stan (December 2006). "Old friend returns to Mount Tabor Park". The Southeast Examiner. 
  17. ^ a b c d Snyder, Eugene E. (1991). Portland Potpourri. Portland, Oregon: Binford & Mort. pp. 73–79. ISBN 0-8323-0493-X. 
  18. ^ "Skinny dipping incident calls reservoir security into question | Local News | | News for Oregon and SW Washington". Archived from the original on 2008-09-17. Retrieved 2011-06-04. 
  19. ^ "E. coli scare renews questions about covering reservoirs". December 5, 2009. 
  20. ^ "Portland reservoir urination raises few health or scientific concerns -- but it is pee". June 16, 2009. 

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