Crystal Springs
Portland’s Secret Garden in Bloom

Illustration by Camden Benesh

When it comes to local places to enjoy nature, Portland certainly is not lacking. Some of the most popular being Forest Park and the Japanese Garden, though these places can get crowded when the rainy season comes to an end. As one of Portland’s best kept secrets, the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden provides a tranquil nature getaway without the crowds. The garden was established in 1950 and is home to close to 100 species of birds; ducks being the most popular. River otters, beavers, and other additional wildlife also inhabit the grounds. The garden is mostly known for its rare plant species, specifically rhododendrons and azaleas. Although the garden is open year round, April–June is when the plant life is in full bloom displaying an array of color. 

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu 

With spring approaching, I decided to take a visit to the garden. In the Eastmoreland neighborhood in Southeast Portland, past the Eastmoreland Golf Club, a mass of green brush lines the road, hiding the views of the garden. A small parking lot indicates the entrance. As I entered through the gates, a winding cement path led down to a clear water creek filled with moss-covered rocks that trickled through the underpass of a wooden bridge into the mouth of Crystal Springs Lake. The path was surrounded by diverse plant life, all ready to bloom from their newly developed buds. Each tree and flower plant had a small black plaque in the ground with identification, most of which I had never heard of. 

The garden consists of many paths that all intertwine and will lead you anywhere on the grounds. I was guided along one of the paths leading to the lake, which seemed to be the most popular place among the few people enjoying the view. The small wooden path that crossed the small lake was the perfect place to stop and catch the various ducks dabbling; tipping their bodies upside down into the water to feed. One person held binoculars to their eyes to get a better glimpse of the birds chirping in the tree above. Across the lake, the Eastmoreland Golf Club attendees can be seen teeing off on the lush green grass. Throughout the garden, there are man made waterfalls varying in size, which all seem to flow into the Crystal Springs Lake. My visit to the garden inspired the idea to return with a blanket, a book, and some snacks to relax in one of the designated areas for resting. 

On April 1st and 2nd, there will be an early blooming event held at the garden. Admission for the show is $5, which is the general admission rate. The show will be a display of rhododendrons as well as hybrid plants that will be the first to bloom. Upon your visit to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron, plan on spending some extra time to enjoy the flourishing plants and wildlife, and make sure to bring a camera.

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