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Clackamas bluffs to be reopened for rock climbers, nature lovers

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PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JONATHAN HOUSE - Keith Daellenbach has been leading the Madrone Wall Preservation Committee for more than a decade. Clackamas County finally has agreed to turn the rock-climbing area into an official park.Keith Daellenbach was smitten after his first time rock climbing at Madrone Wall, a 1,000-foot-long cliff face soaring up to 100 feet high, back in 1997.

But soon after that, the Damascus natural area — a haven for Portland-area rock climbers for decades — was abruptly closed off by Clackamas County so it could put a quarry there.

A quarry “would destroy an irreplaceable amazing civic treasure,” says Daellenbach, who grew up in rural Albany and now lives in Northeast Portland. So he formed the Madrone Wall Preservation Committee, and has devoted much of the past 18 years trying to block the quarry and protect the natural area for the public.

Now, thanks to a $88,590 grant from the Clackamas County Tourism Development Council plus money gathered by Daellenbach's committee and other partners, the Madrone Wall property will become a park open to all, along the Clackamas River Bluffs near Highway 224 and Southeast 197th Avenue.

Construction of a 20-foot-wide gravel access road, 20-vehicle parking lot, handicapped parking, vault toilet restrooms, bicycle parking and a new gate, signage and trailhead kiosk is set to begin in late summer or early fall and be completed by December. There’ll also be an asphalt connection linking the access road to Highway 224 and a nearby TriMet bus stop.

Madrone Wall Park will formally open to the public on July 1, 2017. Plans are to open the park only during the second half of the year, leaving it closed the first half to protect nesting peregrine falcons that inhabit the cliffs.

“This new park will give local citizens and visitors alike the opportunity to walk and hike on nature trails in a natural open space unlike any other in the northern Willamette Valley,” Daellenbach says. Bikers, hikers, students, scout groups and many others will benefit from access to the park, he says.

“Of course, as a rock climber and mountaineer, it is easy to recognize that this is the very best rock-climbing area of regional significance, near to roughly half of the state’s population,” he adds. “Clearly this will be a major new county tourism asset when it opens.”

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JONATHAN HOUSE - Keith Daellenbach looks up at the Madrone Wall.Eighteen years may seem like a long time, but it’s just a blink of the eye compared to how long it took to form Madrone Wall.

“The geology of this site dates to 660,000 years ago, when lava emanated from vents on the bluff above Madrone Wall which, over eons, exposed the cliff face by the meandering Clackamas River across the lower basin’s drainage,” says Rick Gruen, Clackamas County Parks and Forest manager.

When Daellenbach learned the county was prepared to turn this geologic gem into the Hardscrabble Quarry, he formed the Madrone Wall Preservation Committee, made up mostly of rock climbers. They, in turn, reached out to local citizens who had no idea a quarry was planned. In 1999, the group incorporated as a nonprofit organization, and the quarry plan ultimately was abandoned.

North Clackamas County Parks and Recreation began the process of planning a park at the site in 2008. After years of meetings, public comments and hearings, the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners declared the property as Madrone Wall Park in June 2010.

But much of the actual work turning it into a public park is happening this year, thanks to the grant from the Clackamas County Tourism Development Commission.

“This kind of outdoor recreational resource and tourist draw is rare, and cannot be created from scratch in short order for any amount of investment,” Gruen says. “It will open as a regionally significant public park at which local citizens and tourists alike will be able to visit, stay, shop and eat in the local area, learn from, and appreciate its unique natural amenities.”

Daellenbach wants others, including his 10-year-old son, to have the opportunity to unplug, learn from and experience this natural site first-hand.

“We owe this to future generations,” Daellenbach says.

Find out more

• Contact Keith Daellenbach at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit savemadrone.org or facebook.com/madronewall

• Contact Rick Gruen, manager of Clackamas County Parks and Forest, at 503-742-4345 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.