Dave's Corner of the Universe

Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide

Searching For Lady Portland: Milo McIver Park (Vortex 1)

Mciver park sign


It is a beautiful and sunny day in Northern Oregon. Taking advantage of the sun while it is still out, I head up to a hiking trail. Nearby McIver park nestles in to the Clackamas River, and I pause to look at its beauty. I look back and I see a solitary figure approach me. She is wearing a half shirt covered by a faux-leaped vest, Lennon specs and has feathers in her hair. Great the Genius Loci of Portland is on another 70’s kick.

She isn’t real, well not in a corporal sense, she is the embodiment of everything that is the greater Portland area. “Whoa dude the president is coming.” She tells me is a husky voice.

“Obama?” I ask.

“No Tricky Dicky. We just need to all think positive thoughts Dick Nixon’s way and then he will end the war, man.” She says in an almost childish voice.

“What War?” I ask, knowing I am playing the straight man here.

“’Nam.” She insists. “If we just open our minds…”

“I think you may have open your mind a little too much.” I chide her.

“Don’t you know about Vortex?” She cries obviously disgusted with my stick in the mud bourgeoisie manner.
I nod, I am aware that over forty years the only state sponsored music festival in the US, took place in this very park.

mciver vortex

I suppose they thought there would be a Vortex II.

In 1970 Richard Nixon was going to Portland to speak to the American Legion. Now this was a time of great domestic unrest. There was protest and rioting in streets where ever the president went. And it was feared that this would continue when he arrived in Portland. The FBI believed that there would be 25,000 legionares and over 50,000 antiwar demonstrators. They also felt that this was going to lead to intense violence.

In an attempt to ward of the violence Oregon Governor Tom McCall came up with an idea. He proposed the only ever state sponsored music festival to be held in Milo McIver park, outside the sleepy little town of Estacada Oregon, about twenty five miles below Portland. The media at the time stated that successful bands, Santana, The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane would be attending. This turned out to be untrue and only local bands played the venue. Drummer Ginger Baker of the band Cream attended but he did not perform. To sweeten the deal for any hippies that might have been on the fence about attending the week long festival, the governor’s office let it be known that for one week and that week only no narcotics or public decency laws would be enforced. (Basically the hippies could get high and naked and not be arrested if they were in that park that week.)

Mciver vortex peoples

According to Governor McCall Hippies hated the war and clothes.


In addition to music and one must assume a lot of drug use and sex, there were anti-war teach ins and yoga classes. With free food provided by organic food stores and local co-opts. It was quite well attended with reportedly at one time eighteen miles of cars outside the parks gates.

Because it was only local bands Vortex I is remembered as a political event not a musical highlight. Honestly it was a win win situation. Not only was no violence, the governor’s popularity sky-rocketed, and even though the hippies didn’t get an end to war they got high and laid, which was pretty much the best they could have realistically hoped for. Although this was definitely evidence that the anti-war effort did not need to result to violence to make its point.

Oh and for the record, Nixon cancelled and never went to Portland.

Now a days Vortex is pretty much forgotten by most people, but McIver Park is still there. It is a five dollar a day parking permit, or for thirty dollars you can get a pass to all of the Oregon State parks good for two years. McIver is huge on a map McIver is larger than the nearby city of Estacada

Anyone who has watched Portlandia or walked in to Powell’s and saw their well-behaved pets allowed sign, knows that Portland loves dogs. And McIver has an awesome dog park. It is huge enough that if you have a dog that is skittish about being near other dogs that you can play fetch with Fido and not worry about running into other dogs.

Mciver emma and goser

My daughter Emma and my sister’s dog Gozer at the McIver dog park.

There is also a hundred acre Frisbee golf course that is said by many to be the best in the state of Oregon.

There are both horse and hiking trails. I am told there is even an app out there that can help you find your way through said trails. On one of the trails there is an old abandoned barn. The signs outside say it is kept there for a way station for Thompson Long Eared Bats. Only here in Oregon would they preserve an old dilapidated building as a bat refuge right in the middle of a state park.
There is camping facilities with running water and even hot showers. Most of the sites where you can place your tents have easy drive up access. Bird watching here is high point with people telling me they have seen both golden and bald eagles in the park. Personally In  have only seen hawks and turkey vultures.

Mciver bat house

The McIver Park bat barn, or as I told my nephew and niece this is where Batman lives.

The park also gives you access to the Clackamas River. It has several ramps so launching boats. It is in most places a pretty tame river ride (Again I haven’t gone river rafting here so I am going on second hand information) except for area near a dam. I am also told that it gets a lot less drunken yahoos than other places on the river so is good for families with kids or beginners.

mciver water fall

Mciver clacamas

The Clackmas River from McIver Park.

The Genius Loci now looks more like a soccer mom on a day trip than a hippie war protester. In her khaki shorts, green Trail Blazers tee-shirt and a sweeter wrapped around her hips. Honestly I think I like this look more. She looks down the trails and out to the  Clackamas river. “You know they say that history was made here in ’70, but I like to think families are making still making history here.”


11 comments on “Searching For Lady Portland: Milo McIver Park (Vortex 1)

  1. Carl D'Agostino
    May 7, 2014

    1970. I was 21. The whole world seemed full of danger and uncertainty. I almost went career army like many of my frat brothers but became a teacher instead. I decided God did not create America to drop fire on innocent rice farmers on the other side of the world. I was not drafted as were those just a little older than me and I truly respect all our USA vets. I was lucky though. I had a choice. 33 years in the classroom – I hope the veterans feel I served my country too.

    • davekheath
      May 7, 2014

      I think you did. All though a civilian all my life I have many friends and family who served in the military. It is a tough life and they differently don’t chose it for the money and they have my respect.

      But I am a strong believer that the military is a way to serve you country not the only way. In fact I am a big believer in doing good local and eventually it will spread nationally and even father.

  2. J.Gi Federizo
    May 8, 2014

    Nice feature with quite a touch of history in it. I learned something today 🙂

    • davekheath
      May 8, 2014

      I consider myself a bit of a rock historian and I didn’t know about Vortex until a year after I moved a mile away form McIver park. even though it may be more of a political importance than musical, I think it is differently a major even in the history of rock and role.

      • J.Gi Federizo
        May 8, 2014

        Taking what you’ve shared in your post into consideration, I think so, too.

  3. maurnas
    May 10, 2014

    Oh my god! I am flying up to Seattle June 3! And I will finally get to see Portland too. I am freaking out.

    • davekheath
      May 10, 2014

      I will so have to come up with a list of places to visit for you when you get here

      • maurnas
        May 10, 2014

        I would love that!

  4. eurobrat
    May 18, 2014

    Very pretty! Now I kinda wish I had been here in the Portland area for the Vortex experience. Sadly I wasn’t around on the planet yet when this happened :p

    • davekheath
      May 18, 2014

      I was 3. But just to let everyone know they will be having an Exploring Vortex celebrating Vortex I, August 9th 12-4 PM at McIver park.,

      • eurobrat
        May 19, 2014

        Oh cool! Thanks for letting us know.

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