Estacada / by Chris Bonner

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Situated at the base of Mt Hood National Forest about 30 miles southeast of Portland is the city of Estacada. Settlers in the mid-1800s arrived in this area to find Native Clackamas people living along the banks of the Clackamas River. Unfortunately, immigrants brought new diseases with them–namely smallpox and malaria–which all but decimated the native people. In 1855, all remaining Native Clackamas People were relocated to Grand Ronde Agency under the Willamette Valley Treaty. 

The evolution of the city we know as Estacada today centered around the construction of hydroelectric dams along the Clackamas River that were built to supply electricity for residents of Portland. Worker camps were established for the crews that built the Cazadero Dam which went into operation in 1907. Oregon Water Power Railway Company laid tracks and opened up service from Sellwood to Estacada as a means to move freight and workers to the Clackamas River for dam construction. City dwellers interested in visiting the country soon began to ride the train. 

The Estacada Hotel and Portland Restaurant opened in 1904. A post office opened in 1905, the same year the town was incorporated. River Mill Dam came online in 1911, leading to the formation of Estacada Lake which is now part of Milo McIver State Park. Estacada continued to evolve with the creation of a Chamber of Commerce in the early 1930s. 

Train service ended in 1932, a casualty of the rise of the automobile. The construction of roads opened up possibilities for logging and in the 1950s and 60s Estacada became a mill town. Today, the area is best-known for its production of Christmas trees. 

Estacada is also known to some as the site of the first ever government-sponsored rock concert, Vortex, in the summer of 1970. Vortex was the brainchild of governor Tom McCall as a way of distracting potential anti-war protestors from the American Legion Conference scheduled in Portland where Nixon was slated to address attendees. 

In 2015, Estacada invested heavily in its main commercial corridor (South Broadway), planting new street trees, installing public artwork, and constructing gathering spots. While the population within the borders of the incorporated city is still small (less than 3000 residents), over 24,000 residents are living in the areas that comprise the unincorporated town of Estacada.


Estacada is about 45 minutes southeast of Portland in Clackamas County, accessed via highways 221 and 224. There are two elementary schools in the area, River Mill Elementary and Clackamas River Elementary. Estacada Middle School is the only middle school, and Estacada High is the sole high school. 

Points of Interest

Milo McIver State Park is right on the scenic Clackamas River. There are ample trails for hiking and exploring, and guests can also swim, canoe, raft and kayak in the river. Estacada Lake is also within the park and is accessible to boats and open for fishing. The Clackamas Fish Hatchery is also part of the park and offers self-guided tours where you can learn about the life cycle of Chinook salmon and Steelhead.

There is a 27-hole disc golf course and plenty of picnic sites, plus a 44-site campground in the event that you can't get all of your exploring done in one day.

Along the opposite side of Estacada Lake is Timber Park with picnic sites and a disc-golf course. Fishing is allowed along the shoreline and there are ball fields available with a reservation.

Estacada has a bounty of murals painted on structures throughout the town thanks to the Artback Artists, a group that banded together in 1992 to paint Estacada's first mural. Stop by the Chamber of Commerce for a brochure outlining a self-guided walking tour of the murals. 

The Chamber of Commerce website is a wonderful source for information on everything to do in Estacada including birdwatching, eating and drinking, mushroom hunting, exploring the outdoors on foot, horseback, or the river, and more!