West Hayden Island is a 750 acre piece of wilderness, the largest unprotected wild area in the Portland, OR region. Hayden Island is an alluvial island seperated from the Columbia River by a narrow slough. The east and central sides of the island are covered by a the Jantzen Beach Shopping Center and an assortment of outlet stores and hotels, and is considered a slightly tacky shopping district.

However, anyone who follows Hayden Island Drive will eventually come to a place Where the Sidewalk Ends. This is West Hayden Island, home of a large ash-cottonwood forest, one of the largest still surviving on the Lower Columbia, and a mish-mash of wetlands and meadows. Unfortunatly, there is a big no trespassing sign here: the plot of land is the property of the Port of Portland, who bought it in 1994, with hopes to develop it into an extension on the Port of Portland, with terminals for grain and automobiles. However, pressure from nearby residents and environmental groups, as well as the fact that such an extension was not immediatly needed, causes the Port to shelve these plans for the foreseeable future, instead naming the island a "strategic asset".

There have been two cases bought in court by eccentric Portland resident Mikey Jones, charging that the Port of Portland, together with the Army Corps of Engineers, has illegally filled in parts of the island below the high water mark with dredged soils. Surprisingly enough, he won his first case against these organizations, which had to restore several dozen acres to its natural appearence. Mr. Jones further argues that most of West Hayden Island should be public property since it was underneath the high water mark when Oregon became a state.

Whereas I can't vouch for that, a great deal of the North side of the island has a broad, nicely sloping sandy beach. While I am not sure whether the Oregon Beach Law, that states that all beaches are public rights of way, covers river beaches, today I decided to assume it did, and walked down to the Columbia River beach and walked along it for about two miles. It is a very nice beach, although not in a very natural state since it is covered with a fair amount of litter. And while the island seems tranquil itself, the view it has : of the Port of Vancouver and the I-5 Bridge as well as the planes from Portland International Airport flying overhead, remind the visitor that they are still right in the middle of a busy industrial and commercial district.

However, it is a good place to go for desperate Portlanders who can't afford a walk on a real beach.

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