Portland did not come by its high-quality water system easily. The Bull Run watershed, more than 25 miles east of the city, was wild and uncharted when the first survey party arrived in 1886.
In this wet, isolated part of the Cascade Range, rainwater collects in Bull Run Lake. The water seeps from the lake into the ground and emerges downhill through myriad springs, which combine to form the Bull Run River.
Work crews built an ingenious, gravity-fed pipeline from the river all the way to Portland. And in 1895, the clean, good-tasting water began to flow.
Over the decades, Bull Run’s capacity has expanded due to the construction of two water-storage dams. And to prevent contamination of this pristine source, the entire 100-square-mile watershed has long been closed to public access.
Today, almost 120 years after the system was launched, nearly a quarter of Oregon’s population is served by Bull Run, one of the finest municipal water supplies in the country.
To learn more about the history of Portland’s water supply, watch the Oregon Experience documentary “Bull Run.”