For 115 years, Portland, Oregon has enjoyed some of the purest and best-tasting water of any large city in America. The source is a self-contained watershed in the Cascade Mountains that receives bountiful amounts of rain and snow. The story of its discovery and the building of the delivery system that brings the water to the city reads like an tale from the American Frontier and is the next subject of OREGON EXPERIENCE, airing on the stations of Oregon Public Broadcasting on Monday, October 12 at 9pm.

The Bull Run Management watershed drains about 100 square miles and boasts beautiful views of Mt Hood, lush old-growth forest and one of the most-attractive big dams in Oregon. But to protect the water from contamination, the entire area has long been closed to public access. As far back as the 1880’s, Portland’s first Water Committee – a group of local businessmen — fought to keep their future water supply free from logging, livestock grazing and homesteading. And the continued quality of the Bull Run water resource is a tribute to citizen involvement, long-range vision and local government at its best.

“Bull Run” combines old photographs and charts with modern aerial footage, GIS mapping and beautiful on-the-ground video. Casey Short, author of the only full-length book on Bull Run, recounts its early history, while Dave Rowley — one of the few people to have actually lived in the management area — shares stories from his isolated childhood there.

Other people in the program include: Catherine Howells, a water historian who teaches courses on Bull Run at Portland State University; Rick McClure, a regional historian for the U.S. Forest Service; Richard Robbins, Natural Resource Program manager for the Portland Water Bureau; and the bureau’s chief engineer, Michael Stuhr.

Portland’s Bull Run water supply will be making news in the years to come. Local people will contest the proposed covering of the city’s now-open reservoirs. The federal EPA wants the city to filter or otherwise treat the never-filtered Bull Run water. The threat of fire on the watershed continues to loom, while parts of the city’s water distribution system are wearing out after all these years.

OPB’s Eric Cain, the producer of “Bull Run,” says the program offers no solutions to those issues. “But we do hope to convey the uniqueness and the value of the watershed and the water it produces. This is a remarkable resource that hundreds of thousands of us rely upon every day. Most of us take our water for granted, but we probably should not.”

Watch the complete program online anytime after October 12 at

OREGON EXPERIENCE is an exciting history series on OPB-TV that brings to life fascinating stories that help us understand who we are and that reinforce our shared identity as Oregonians. The series, co-produced by the Oregon Historical Society and Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), takes advantage of the extensive film, video and stills from the archives of OHS and OPB, and draws upon the expertise of OHS researchers and historians. Each half-hour show features captivating characters — both familiar and forgotten — who have played key roles in building our state into the unique place we call home. Funding for OREGON EXPERIENCE is provided in part by Ann & Bill Swindells Charitable Trust, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation and Oregon Cultural Trust. The OREGON EXPERIENCE Web site is