Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Protecting Hog Island

Caretakers want people to be more careful when visiting the small island in the Willamette River


REVIEW PHOTO: ANHONY MACUK - Willamette Riverkeeper director Travis Williams paddles around the eastern side of Hog Island. The organization helps clean up invasive species on the island on behalf of Clackamas County.In the middle of the Willamette River, right on the border between West Linn and Lake Oswego, sits a small, 10-acre landmass known as Hog Island. It’s entirely undeveloped and accessible only by boat, but it’s also a beautiful location that’s home to a variety of native Oregon plants.

And West Linn resident Travis Williams wants to keep it that way.

But while Williams and his colleagues at Willamette Riverkeeper are committed to removing invasive species and doing other preservation work on the island, they’ve increasingly been forced to address a different problem: littering.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - On a recent visit to Hog Island, volunteers found multiple fire pits and garbage left on the beach and in the woods.

“It’s just a general uptick in litter and trash and debris — human waste, that kind of thing — over the last three months, certainly as the weather has gotten nicer,” he says. “This year, there seems to be more trash strewn throughout different sections of the perimeter of the island.”

Williams is the executive director of Willamette Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 that works to maintain water quality and habitat throughout the Willamette River basin. The organization’s members help clean up litter, remove invasive species and enforce the federal Clean Water Act. The group also maintains a program called River Discovery to help educate the public about the Willamette.

“We do that throughout the whole Willamette basin — Eugene up to Portland and beyond,” Williams says.

Lake Oswego and West Linn’s city limits both end along the edge of the river, so the island — which sits off Old River Road near the Marylhurst University campus — is technically located in unincorporated Clackamas County. But the island isn’t overseen by the any parks department, so the county unofficially relies on volunteers like Willamette Riverkeeper to maintain the property.

“We’ve agreed with the county, which owns the land, that we could go in there with volunteers and remove invasive weeds and things like that, just to give the native plants in there a chance to continue to develop,” says Williams.

Those native plants include white oak, Oregon grape, snowberry and most recently camas, which Williams says was able to bounce back on its own in recent years after Riverkeeper volunteers removed a large amount of invasive scotch broom from the island.

But lately, careless human visitors have become the larger problem. The island is easily reachable by kayak or canoe, but overnight camping is not allowed — and the fire pits and other debris left behind is not appreciated.

“Certain people visit these properties — they have no respect for what’s there. They leave their trash, they tear out signage in some cases, they burn things, they even cut down trees to ostensibly burn for firewood,” Williams says. “That’s what really got me — part of this oak tree was just cut.”

Despite the problems, Williams isn’t pushing for any changes to the island. He says he hopes increased public education can help remind visitors to clean up after themselves and instill a “leave no trace” ethic.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Volunteers dismantled one of the fire pits they found on Hog Island, leaving what now looks like rocks on the beach.

“It’s unfortunate. I think most often the folks who do these types of things are those you might characterize as the lowest common denominator,” he says, “but I also think there are folks who maybe just don’t think about what they’re doing and the fact that they’re on a public resource that really should be appreciated. It’s in all of our interests to leave a very light footprint, if possible.”

Williams hopes the increased awareness of Hog Island can lead to a greater appreciation of the area. He points out that the island and many other similar natural areas don’t require fees or permits, which he says is lucky for nearby residents — as long as they remember to clean up after they visit.

“There are no fees to visit these places, and I think to remind people how great that is, and how unique it is in many cases — Hog Island just fits into that overall group of properties that are there for everyone to appreciate,” he says. “So I think that’s the larger message. My sense of it is, if we just get more people to understand — you know, ‘Clean up after yourself, don’t make a mess, and don’t destroy what’s there’ — then I think we’re all going to be better for it.”

Contact Anthony Macuk at 503-636-1281 ext. 108 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. REVIEW PHOTO: ANTHONY MACUK - Willamette Riverkeeper director Travis Williams says Hog Island has a diverse collection of White Oaks and other native plants and bird life. He says he hopes more visitors can enjoy the islands scenery â€' but without leaving trash behind.