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Today is Friday, October 20, 2017 at 06:13 PM.


arly college visionaries, not content with a patch of grazed land, were determined to create a sculpted garden from the canyon. Within the Reed College Record of 1912, the future favored for the canyon was as a "picturesque lake," at the site of the naturally occurring pond, to be constructed during the development of the pasture into the college grounds. Another highly influential figure of this time was Albert E. Doyle, who in 1913 submitted plans for transforming the canyon into the central hub of "an artful landscape of Tudor Gothic quadrangles and formal gardens." Happily, these plans fell through, mainly for financial reasons but also because of an undercurrent of preservation rippling through the minds of college advocates and planners of the time. Soon after, the state of Oregon officially protected the canyon as part of the Johnson Creek Watershed, designating it as a fish and wildlife refuge. Today, the 60-acre site provides relatively high-quality habitat, with its associated wetland and upland area.

Completing the transformation that same year from intended garden of cultivated delights to de jure refuge and wild area was the initiation of Canyon Day. Starting in 1913, a day has been set aside yearly for members of the Reed community to pitch in and take care of the canyon. This ethic of stewardship works to guarantee that Reed's common resource maintains its health and vitality.

In the first few decades, Canyon Day focused primarily on the enhancement of the canyon as a recreational area for human use. A large section of the creek was excavated in 1915 to produce a swimming hole. (There were originally two bathhouses for men and women, complete with a dock and a diving platform; one still survives as the bike co-op.) This area lives on today as the west end of the lake, where the water is darkest and deepest--over ten feet from surface to lake bottom in some places, not counting the thick, rich benthic mud. The mud itself deserves a side note as the rumored resting place of a Portland police car, whose officer was bamboozled by some intrepid Reedies back in the 1910s or '20s. Or so the legend goes.

In 1929, a dam was built to provide secure space downstream in the canyon for a neighborhood swimming pool. With water flow restricted to a small culvert running under the dam, the previously excavated swimming hole began to fill. Both the outdoor pool and dam exist to this day, with the latter having metamorphosed over the years into the land bridge leading to the cross-canyon dormitories.