Both an imperative for Portland visitors and a staple for Portland residents, the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade is one of Portland’s best walks or rides. The Esplanade provides excellent views of the downtown skyline over the Willamette River and tremendous perspectives on four of the city’s distinctive bridges. While you can hop on or off of the Esplanade wherever it is convenient, the official segment runs between the Hawthorne Bridge and the Steel Bridge. Throughout, the path is wide enough to accommodate bicycle and pedestrian traffic (though it can become crowded during heavy commute times), and several micro-parks, benches, viewpoints, and interpretive areas line the banks.
Users of the Eastbank Esplanade are treated to a variety of river views courtesy of some ingenious engineering and design. Because the Burnside Bridge enjoys a historic designation that protects it from any additional structural weight, the Esplanade was not allowed to make contact with the bridge as it passed beneath. Instead, the 1,200-foot section of walkway that floats between the Burnside Bridge and the Steel Bridge is anchored with pilings and rises and falls with the Willamette’s water levels. It is still the longest floating walkway in the country. From here you can look west toward Old Town and Portland’s iconic White Stag sign, relaxing on a bench just above the surface of the river that has helped to make Portland the city it is today.
The Eastbank Esplanade was completed in 2001, and in 2004 it was named for Vera Katz, Portland’s mayor from 1993 to 2005 and a former Speaker of Oregon’s House of Representatives. It was a $30 million project, one third of which was absorbed by the construction of the Steel Bridge’s lower walkway. Predictably, the development and construction of the project was controversial, and Vera Katz was a prominent champion for its cause.
Apart from the fantastic views, the Eastbank Esplanade is an accessible and essential Portland thoroughfare. From the path you can easily cross the Hawthorne, Morrison, Burnside, or Steel Bridges to access Tom McCall Waterfront Park and Portland’s downtown, or you can stay on Portland's east side and use the Springwater Corridor to work your way farther south along the Willamette past Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge to the Sellwood Bridge and Sellwood Riverfront Park.