I was surprised when I realized I had never heard about Vortex until just a few years ago. How in the world could I be a native Oregonian growing up on the banks of the Willamette River, and not know about this event? Perhaps because it was 1970 and I was only nine years old. Yet I discovered an even better question earlier this week: how did I make it to my 6th decade to only now visit Milo McIver Park!
While my writing clearly shows favoritism toward the Willamette River, I’d be pretty amiss not to exude adoring descriptives of its tributary, the Clackamas, a powerful river meandering its way around McIver Park. The Clackamas River headwaters are on the slopes of Olallie Butte in the Mount Hood National Forest after which it flows its 83 miles to join the Willamette near Oregon City, forming a boundary between Oregon City and Gladstone. And for those of us in West Linn and a few other towns, it supplies our drinking water. While today half of it is designated a Wild and Scenic River, it was inhabited years ago by Native Americans, including the Clackamas People.
In today’s world we can imagine the event that even the park pamphlet proudly boasts, 1969 Vortex. I thank Matt Love, author of The Far out Story of Vortex I for initially introducing me to this event I missed as a child. This week-long rock festival supported by the likes of Governor Tom McCall and others, was an effort to keep Portland’s “counterculture” community from being involved in anti-war protests as Richard Nixon visited the streets of Portland. Imagine – the only state-sponsored rock festival in our U.S. History. Hmm – probably an idea whose creative innocence wouldn’t work should a certain (uh, widely disliked) presidential candidate decide to hit our city’s pavement in 2017.
While so many Oregon places have been named for early settlers and politicians, this park was named for Milo McIver, an Oregon Highway Commission member for twelve years beginning in 1950. Ah yes, and a man back from a time when our highways opened our imaginations to an easier way to travel from city to town to countryside – certainly a lifetime away from today’s clogged arteries.
The park today, though, offers us yet another spot to soak in Willamette Valley beauty. And on this cold, damp December day, with only a few frisbee golfers nearby, it offered a quiet meditative rippling view to conclude this year of 2016.