Reed College Canyon

canyon day image

Canyon Day History

In a school where traditions go extinct in a week and the ways of last term are dismissed as "Old Reed," the continuing existence of Canyon Day is something akin to a miracle. For almost ninety years, the Reed Community has set aside at least one day - sometimes two - for a large work party aimed at cleaning up and improving the forested area at the heart of our campus.


The original college planners wrote of transforming the Reed Canyon into "an artful landscape of Tudor Gothic quadrangles and formal gardens," and early Canyon Days reflected that vision. Photographs in the Reed Archives show students and faculty members scouring the canyon to remove dead wood and fallen leaves and building large bonfires with the debris. The goal of Canyon Day was to "tame" the area and convert it to a park-like setting.


On Canyon Day in 1915, students dredged an area at the west end of the pond to create a 10-foot-deep swimming hole. They later added a dock, a diving platform and separate bathhouses for men and women. (One of the bathhouses lived on as the bike co-op well into the 1990's.)


As the college's vision of the canyon evolved over time, the goal of Canyon Day changed too. With an increasing appreciation of the canyon's natural beauty, the emphasis shifted from improvement to protection. Participants removed litter, built trails, and helped to clean up the area.


In recent years the primary goal of Canyon Day has been conservation. Students and faculty have helped pull out invasive weeds and replant with native vegetation. The 2001 Fall Canyon Day was announced with this message:

"Help bring back native plant habitat and enhance water quality at the headwaters of Crystal Springs Creek. The Canyon restoration project will be held on Saturday, October 6, from 8am to 1pm, in the Reed College canyon. Volunteers will convene at the Cerf amphitheatre. All tools (except gloves) will be provided."

Over the next few years, Canyon Days will be an important part of the ongoing restoration effort. If you would like to get involved and help plan future Canyon Days, please contact the grounds crew at the Reed Physical Plant. For more information on the history of Canyon Day, you can read "Canyon Day -- Past and Present" by Nathan Coutsoubos.