Summer to autumn, and other news

In case you’ve been spending a little too much time in the library the last few weeks, it’s official – fall’s here, the leaves are turning, and the color on the trees just seems to glow. We’re going from scenes like this…

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…to this.

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It’s a beautiful time of year, and the weather has been suspiciously kind to us so far. Come take a walk in the Canyon and enjoy the colors before they’re all gone! If you have any photos of your own, feel free to share on the Reed Canyon Facebook page.


All pictures taken by author of this entry.

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Reed Canyon Featured in "Wild in the City" trailbook

It’s easy to forget for those of us in the bubble, but it isn’t just Reedies who use the Canyon. Birdwatchers, runners, people walking their dogs or taking their kids out on a quick hike, locals getting around in the neighborhood – just because this is private property doesn’t mean that it’s not open to the community at large to enrich and enjoy.

Recognizing this, Reed College Canyon has been featured in the latest edition of the “Wild in the City” trailbook, which provides detailed guides for exploring the city’s many natural areas and their trail systems. The entry highlights the deep restoration efforts that have taken place over the past decade since the last edition of the book, which fixated on the invasive species that had currently been (more) rampant and a peculiar reference to naked Reedies rising out of the mud.

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“Lying in the heart of the beautifully manicured Reed College campus, the Reed College Canyon remains an island of untamed nature in the center of an urban area. Essentially untouched from the 1930s to 2000, the canyon has been the focus of an ambitious habitat restoration project for the past decade. This work has restored the canyon to its “natural” state while improving opportunities for visitors to appreciate its beauty. […] The Reed Canyon is a local treasure – a carefully managed wilderness in the heart of the city.”

The entry also includes lengthy descriptions of the numerous native species, including many rare ones, that can be found in the Canyon, from coyotes to skunk cabbage to coho salmon. There is also a map of the current trail system, which has gotten bigger since the last edition, and detailed description of access points, both of which can be a bit confusing to newcomers.

Outside of its entry on Reed Canyon, the book also has numerous entries on other great natural areas in Portland, both nearby and far from Reed College. The updated book is available for purchase either via Amazon, or at many local bookstores such as Powells and the Reed College bookstore.

Our own Zac Perry wrote the updated version, working with the author of the entry in the last edition of the book, Bob Sallinger, Reed alum and current employee of the Portland Audobon Society. Bob also wrote a post about the new book.


Of course, this is all just a part of the bigger picture here in Portland – we are blessed with a myriad of green spaces, from the sprawling wilds of Forest Park to the highly ordered displays of the International Rose Test Garden. Portland has just received national honors for overall achievement in its park system, the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation. We are blessed to live in such a beautiful city, and doubly so to be recognized as a model for others.

Questions, comments, concerns? Either comment on this entry or check out our Facebook page.

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Canyon Day Recap

Canyon Day this year proved to be quite a success, with a steady trickle of people from 9AM to 3PM to man the front lines against invading invasives. Here’s some pictures from the event.

Zac started off the day with a little Invasives 101 for the early birds. Mostly, we were looking for anything viney or pokey – vines tends to be the sort of invasives that choke out natives by climbing and growing up and over the top of them, like clematis, morning glory and English ivy, and pokey things primarily being Himalayan blackberry, which while delicious can also create an impregnable understory that native species can’t grow through and penetrate.

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Many Reed students took part in Canyon Day. It’s a bit different from the usual activities at Reed, but people seemed quite willing to trade in their laptops for a pair of leather gloves.


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Canyon Day isn’t just a draw for current Reed students. There were many community members of all ages as well, people who walk their dogs, take their morning run, do some birdwatching, or even just take their kids out on a quick hike in the Canyon.

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The front line looked a little bit something like this – and we pushed it forward in a mere 6 hours what would have taken Canyon Crew weeks to do on their own.

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To accompany the work, we also had some Reed students come out to give us some live music – two different groups.

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We also brought out our bicycle-powered cider press near the end of the day. It proved to be a bit, um, distracting to workers, but in the best possible way.

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At the end of the day, those who were still sticking around got together to, er, compact the heap of invasive species we had pulled. Jumping around with a silly grin was purely a secondary motivation.


Thanks everyone for pitching in on the effort! Really great progress. If you missed out on the effort, you can still see the area we pulled invasives out of above the trail that runs from the art building out into the neighborhood. It doesn’t look pretty, but soon native species will grow in where the invasives were pulled out and form a healthier ecosystem, more similar to what we have in other parts of the Canyon where past Canyon Days were able to make similar pushes.

Questions, comments, concerns? Have Canyon Day pictures of your own you’d like to share? Check out our Facebook page, or email Zac Perry at perry AT reed DOT edu.

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All photos taken by the author of this post.

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Canyon Day – what is it?

So, Canyon Day is here – the posters are up, the email’s out. But… what exactly do you do during Canyon Day? Plenty of people, particularly new students, might be a bit in the dark on this front.

Basically, Canyon Day is a time when the community can give back to the Canyon, particularly in areas where Canyon Crew just can’t keep up. Generally in the past, this has consisted of both general maintenance work – combating and pushing back the ever-encroaching invasive species – as well as more positivist restoration work such as planting new native trees, ferns and other plants. Last year, the big projects were restoring the farm property and the orchard, both of which have been progressing beautifully.

This year, we’re looking at the area behind the art building, an area that’s been long neglected – and it shows. Every invasive species we find in the Canyon, we can find here – English ivy, deadly nightshade, himalayan blackberry, nipplewort, clematis, morning glory, all of them suffocating out any young native species that try to compete here and choking older, more established plants as well. It’s an intimidating task, to say the least, but certainly one we can manage with our powers combined!



What the Canyon needs here the most is your manual, unskilled labor to uproot these invasive species. Canyon Crew will provide the tools – machetes, picks, gloves, whatever you need to get the job done. The more the merrier – bring your friends and hack at things together! It’s surprisingly cathartic, particularly for those with papers due.

For example, one species that is quite common in here is deadly nightshade, whose bright red berries are, well, deadly, at least to those who might not know better that to try a few (think little kiddies and wannabe naturalists.) 


When scoping out the area, we’ve also found a lot of pretty curious trash, presumably the projects of Olde Reed art majors. A lot of this will need hauling out after they’ve been excavated out from under all the invasive species – think old rusty cages and metal tables overgrown with ivy. 

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We’re also hoping to get some trail maintenance done, primarily resurfacing the trails as the rainy season approaches. Without a fresh layer of woodchips, many of these trails will be reduced to sloggy, muddy messes that no one likes to walk on. We’ll provide the woodchips, pitchforks, and wheelbarrows – we just need some people to cart them down the trail and spread them around. 


It’s not all work, though. Lunch will be provided to Canyon Day participants – CAVE (Carnivorous Alternatives to Vegetarian Eating) and the Ladies Pie Society will both be making a delicious appearance, and later in the day the (now fixed) bicycle-powered cider press will be coming out to press some tasty tasty fresh squeezed juice. Weather conditions pending, there will also be some live music.

Questions, comments, concerns? Check out last week’s entry about the upcoming Canyon Day, or our Facebook page.

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Canyon Day is Here!

After a long spring and short summer it is time to get back in those woods we have all found salvation in- and give back.

Come celebrate Reed’s oldest active tradition Canyon Day!

This bi-annual event is helps protect and restore the canyon’s natural vegetation to improve the habitat for urban native wildlife. Join your community members in planting native trees and shrubs on Saturday, October 8th from 9a.m. to 3p.m.

Canyon Day is free and open all. Tools, Training, Food, and Fun provided.


Wear weather-appropriate clothing and bring gloves if you have them. Join us near the Studio Art building at the eastern end of the canyon.

The canyon provides a natural haven for reflection and recreation for all members of the Reed community. Canyon Day gives us an opportunity to come together and help sustain this urban wilderness- a tradition that’s been going strong since 1920. 

To learn more about Canyon Day- and see photos of recent events please visit;

The best time to plant a tree was 50 years ago, the second best time to plant a tree is now.

We hope to see you there.

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Spider Season

It’s spider season in the canyon! There are dozens of beautiful spider webs at every turn. This web was one of 7 hanging over the waterfall just west of the land bridge. They really light up in the afternoon light. I recommend a walk around the canyon to check them out, especially on a day like this!


P.S. We couldn’t identify this spider, It’s about 1.5 inches long spread out. If anyone has any idea what it might be, let us know.

– Canyon Crew

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Reed College Centennial Celebration

On September 24th Reed College is hosting a Community Day-

It starts with a 5k Odyssey Run- around the college and a pancake feed.

Mid- morning there is a kid’s festival in the Quad with carnival games, face painting, balloon artist, climbing wall, and a bouncy castle.

Starting at 11am there is a series of tours and events including a stunt kite demonstration, and tours of the canyon, reactor, art gallery, and an architecture tour of the campus. At this same time there is a Reed rugby match on the upper sports field.

Mid-Day on the Commons Patio there is the Portland Taiko drummers, Reed student dancers, a pet-parade, and the Patrick Lamb Band playing at 1pm.

Make sure not to miss the Orchard Dedication- at 2pm in the Reed Orchard- *East end of the canyon nearest 37th street from Steele Blvd.

Participants in the orchard will be able to enjoy the sounds of our local bluegrass band, and the sips of fresh pressed cider from our newly released bike-powered fruit squeezer.


Near 2:30pm join President Colin Diver in planting the ‘centennial tree’ and be apart of Reed’s history- we need your help planting this historic tree- and your petal power to crush these apples-

This day of celebration concludes with a movie on the front lawn and a massive fireworks show over the West parking lot.

Everybody is welcome and encouraged to bring friends and family.

See you there!

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Researching the Canyon

Another beautiful summer is winding down in the canyon- which for us means two things. The yellow jackets are extra nasty right now, and it’s time to start diving deep into the inner questions of the canyon and set up our research stations for the Biology and Chemistry classes. This year undergraduates are going to be observing the populations of stickleback fish in Reed Lake and comparing that to an upland pond just east of our main spring source- where we have noticed the same type of fish surviving in a low oxygen, warmer temperature environment. Looking at these fish more closely we can see that there is significant morphological variation in these Threespine Sticklebacks depending on where they were observed. – Very exciting if you’re one of those fish/genetics types.

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Also within the Chemistry department we are now taking a look at Phosphorus in the springs system. Phosphorus is common in fresh water systems but can be affected by the use chemical fertilizers and the movement of organic wastes. Phosphorus is important for plants to be healthy, but too much in the water can speed up plant growth to an abnormal level and reduces the levels of suspended dissolved oxygen. Soil erosion can also lead to increased levels of Phosphorus in the water- which is why so much of the early restoration efforts focused on establishing a safe trail system away from the waters edge resulting in a reduction of compaction near the lake, and lower stream area nearest the theater building.

We’ll check back and let you know what we find out there- in the meantime if you’re interested in past research in the canyon and student thesis with a focus on the canyon take a look at research in Reed Canyon.

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Learning the logic of fish: streamwork in Reed Canyon

Consider this scene:

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The first thought that most people have upon coming to such a place is probably something along the lines of, How picturesque! I’d best plop down at this here picnic table and admire this splendid vista, this tranquil scene!

A salmon attempting to swim upstream, however, is probably thinking more along the lines of, Ohgodohgodohgod am I going to make it?

That salmon probably won’t, in fact, make it. Humans and fish have very different desires when it comes to getting the most out of a stream, be it for breeding purposes or otherwise. Salmon, for instance, need at least a consistent six inches of depth, the occasional deep pool to rest in, enough riffles to keep the water well aerated, a gradual change in elevation without dramatic waterfalls, and adequate cover from hungry raptors – and that’s not even getting into their particular breeding needs, which include but is not limited to gravel of JUST the right size and relatively undisturbed stream bottoms for their eggs to mature in.  Applying this over the full course of the stream, as you might imagine, is actually a surprisingly complex bit of work.

Restoring Reed Canyon has largely been a story of restoring the stream, Crystal Springs Creek. For years, there wasn’t a stream at all for long sections of it, the water instead routed through a series of pipes in and out of a swimming pool – not exactly fish friendly. As a result, native species that used to frequent the stream, such as salmon and lampreys, ceased to be a part of the Reed Canyon ecosystem, contributing to the multitude of imbalances that plagued the place. Since then, the pool has been removed and a fish ladder put in its place, but generations of misuse of the Canyon had still caused a lot of critical erosion to the stream banks, making them – still – unnavigable to anything lacking feet.

One of Canyon Crew’s charges over the last few years has been to attempt to restore the stream banks to something closer to what a fish needs, while also respecting the human want to frolic at the water’s edge. We try to do a little work every year late in the summer and early fall to minimize our interference in natural cycles like the salmon run, and try not to stomp around in the stream during the rest of the year, minus the occasional spot of dam removal. We’re better off than where we were a few years ago – check out this picture of Crystal Springs Creek under the theater building – but there’s still a lot of work to do.

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Making the stream narrower is the most common thing we do. Typically, we rake out gravels from the bottom of the desired path to deepen it, and shore up the new banks with them. We also add in sticks and logs from the surroundings, and will fill in any gaps with jewelweed – a fast-growing, water-loving native species that can actually root in these spaces and cement the new bank into place. We also bring in dogwood and willow cuttings to stabilize the stream bank in the long term. Some sculpting:

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The stream also can’t be too fast – we don’t want a straight shot out of the Canyon, as no young juvenile salmon is going to be able to swim up a raging stream. We therefore sculpt the stream into mimicking natural meaders, which will hopefully deepen over time. To give the salmon a chance to rest, we also plop down the occasional big log, which forms deep pools of slow moving water.

This is what a section of the stream looks like after a few hours of shoring up the bank. While we didn’t block all of the water from traveling through on the right, we slow it down sufficiently that it should begin to deposit its sediment load, slowly filling up that section over time until only the stream on the left is still flowing. The crushed plants, primarily jewelweed, should grow up to form a lush, stabilizing hedge. We’d probably need to return to this site, and others, multiple times before the bank holds, but it’s a start.

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In the long term, the stream will be able to maintain itself, carving out its own meanders, native species propagating on their own along the banks, pools naturally clearing themselves out of debris. However, in the meantime, the stream just needs a little bit of help to get back in business. We can already see the fruits of our labor in sightings like this in Reed Lake:

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How can you help? Well, don’t go fishing, don’t indulge your inner engineer and build dams on the stream, and don’t go stomping about in the gravel beds lest you squish yourself some caviar. Admire the stream from preordained paths – during the restoration process, every footfall on the bank matters.

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We’ll leave you with some pretty pictures of the restored stream. See you next week, and enjoy the Canyon!

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If you have any questions, comments or concerns, feel free to either leave a comment on this blog or on the Facebook page, or to contact Zac Perry.

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Canyon Crew: Then and Now







Olde Reed is Dead

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