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Hillsboro, Oregon

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    Location: Historical Tour > Jackson Bottom > Jackson Bottom Wetlands

Jackson Bottom Wetlands

Jackson Bottom Wetlands
2600 SW Hillsboro Highway

The Atfalati, a band of the Kalapuyas who inhabited the Tualatin and central Willamette Valleys, were the first to occupy this land surrounding the Tualatin River. Seasonal village sites have been found within this area, which was probably used primarily for hunting small game and waterfowl and also for root gathering.

Sadly, by the 1830s, the Atfalati tribe had been decimated by disease. Possible culprits include smallpox and malaria which were introduced when trappers arrived in the region. Then, in the 1840s, the first Caucasian settlers arrived and took advantage of the broad fertile plains of the Tualatin Valley -- fertile plains which had been created by the long-standing Atfalati practice of field burning.

As young Hillsboro began to grow, burgeoning commercial activity and transportation of farm and timber products centered on the river. Even though the journey was difficult and the Tualatin was impassable during the dry season, by 1867 steamboats were traveling between Oswego (modern-day Lake Oswego) and what would ultimately become the town of Cornelius. Landings lined the length of the river, including sites at Sulger Ferry, Rood Bridge and Jackson Bottom Bridge (where a warehouse also stood from 1865 until the mid-1890s).

River transportation steadily declined after the railroad arrived in 1872 and, unfortunately, these bottomlands gradually took on new purpose as a dumping ground. The effluent from Hillsboro's original 1910 sewer system flowed into the wetlands until a sewage treatment plant was built in 1935. In addition, canneries (which had become one of Hillsboro's primary industries) discharged their waste into Jackson Bottom. By the 1930s, the Tualatin was polluted to the extent that farmers could no longer use the water for their herds.

In order to forestall lawsuits and eliminate their most vocal opponent, Maling & Company (the largest cannery at the time) bought the Trent farm in 1939 and then resold it to the City. Over time, the City continued to acquire properties within Jackson Bottom and efforts were undertaken to restore and protect this natural area. Today, the original 120-acre Trent parcel has grown into a wildlife preserve encompassing 710 acres.

The route which is now Oregon Highway 219 (Hillsboro Highway), connecting the county seat with regions south of Jackson Bottom, was established before 1865 and at least three bridges have spanned the river at this point. Reportedly, a bridge was standing in 1865 and collapsed during the 1890s. A wooden truss drawbridge was erected in 1905 and served until 1921. The present earthen causeway is thought to have been built in 1920.

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Research source(s):
♦ Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. City of Hillsboro. 13 May 2004. <>.
♦ Walker & Macy, Landscape Architects and Planners. “Jackson Bottom Concept Master Plan: A Plan Which Integrates Wildlife, Recreation and Water Management.” Portland, Oregon: January 1989.

Photo date: Unknown
Photo credit: City of Hillsboro (
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