Nature play parks in and near Portland


Welcome to Exploring Portland’s Natural Areas! You’re here – probably – because you are participating in the PNW Nature Blog Scavenger Hunt organized by The Metropolitan Field Guide. Head over to that site to read the rules. Enjoy the search! There will be prizes… Update: the answers have been posted!


Nature play parks in and near Portland

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For the last five weeks, my kids and I have been going to Camille Park in Beaverton so that 1) they can play, and 2) I can do an observational nature play survey. Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District sought volunteers to conduct weekly surveys of the district’s various nature play areas. We chose to do Camille Park, as my kids really enjoy the nature elements in the play area (logs for climbing on, a large sand pit, a boardwalk going through a grove of Oregon white oak trees, and much more). It’s also the closest of THPRD’s nature play areas to our home, as we live in SW Portland.

I’ve posted about nature play areas before. Actually, it was a guest post in the summer of 2013 by Michelle Mathis: Nature Play in the Portland area. In that post she highlighted some of the nature play areas in the Portland region, Camille Park included. Since then, a lot more has happened – nature play opportunities are really expanding, so much so that next month’s issue of Metro Parent magazine will have an article about nature play areas by yours truly (including a neat little map put together by the magazine’s graphic designer). But here I just wanted to share a few items of note:

– a new forested park will open this spring in Gresham. A long time coming, Nadaka Nature Park will provide a much-needed park for nearby residents. The playground will include nature play elements, such as a sand and water pump area, a play canoe, and much more. The Friends of Nadaka will hold a grand opening celebration here on Saturday, April 4 from 10am to noon.

– one of THPRD’s recent park developments, Roger Tilbury Memorial Park in the Cedar Mill neighborhood, has a nature play area where kids can build structures with branches and sticks. The district will hold a Nature Days in the Park event here on Sunday, May 10 from 11am to 3pm.


– this spring, Portland Parks and Recreation will open a brand new park in NE Portland that will have nature-based elements as part of its playground. The park’s name, Kʰunamokwst Park, means ‘together’ in the Chinook-wawa language. PP&R will hold a grand opening celebration on Saturday, May 16 from 11am to 3pm.

– last fall, Portland Parks and Recreation opened their nature play pilot project, a new playground at Westmoreland Park in SE Portland. This place is huge, and offers a sand and water play area, boulders, logs, and wooden structures for climbing, and fort building. The several times we have visited, the play area was absolutely packed. The redevelopment of the park included restoration of Crystal Springs Creek, where salmon have already been seen swimming up the creek which passes just next to the play area.

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– if you have not yet been to Outdoor Adventure at the Portland Children’s Museum (which I reviewed for Metro Parent last August), don’t forget that access to this very large nature-based play area is included in the museum’s monthly free nights (the first Friday of every month, 4-8pm).

– Katherine Logan published an article about Oregon nature play areas – Westmoreland Park in SE Portland, Outdoor Adventure at the Portland Children’s Museum, and the North Canyon Nature Play Area at Silver Falls State Park – in Landscape Architecture Magazine‘s March issue. Michelle Mathis has posted the article, “Go Wild, Oregon Child,” at her website Learning Landscapes Design, here.

– a natural area park in SW Portland recently received a brand new playground. While Marshall Park now has a very nice play structure (with mushroom steps!), Portland Parks and Recreation staff also put together a rock and log nature exploration area next to the playground that mimics a dry creek bed (Tryon Creek flows right next to the area).


Spring Garden Park in SW Portland, which now has a small nature play area, will be redeveloped in the near future and will hopefully include a larger nature play area, fingers crossed! (it will all depend on planning and budgets)

If you know of any other recent developments in nature play in the Portland area, please let me know. In the meantime, get outside and play!

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3 Responses to Nature play parks in and near Portland

  1. We just wanted to share that along with DePave we have completed a new natural play space – newly named ‘Salmon Creek’. It is located at Childswork Learning Center in Portland at 4235 SE Salmon St, Portland, OR 97215.

    Here is a video about the project if you’re interested to learn more and see what it looks like before you head over!

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