CITY GUIDE: Eight things you didn’t know about Portland

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CITY GUIDE: Eight things you didn’t know about Portland

Formula E returns to the USA and Portland, Oregon, bringing all-electric racing back to the green North West. Here’s the lowdown on one of the country’s most exciting and sustainable cities.

Portland sign generic scene

City of counterculture 

Before American settlers arrived in the 1800s, the land around Portland was home to the indigenous Chinook peoples of the Multnomah and Clackamas tribes, who made the Portland Basin one of the most densely populated regions of the Pacific Coast. Portland’s proximity to the water made the city vital to the timber and transportation industries of the mid-1850s, and the now-settled city began to flourish.

With the good, however, came the bad, with those same links ripe for abuse from organised crime and racketeering. This reputation remained until a wartime industrial boom revolutionised Portland’s economy, and the city soon became a hub for a burgeoning liberal and progressive culture that retains its strong personality to this day.  


End of the trail

Actually named after an earlier settlement in Maine, Portland, Oregon was founded near the end of the famous Oregon Trail. The 2,170 mile (3,490km) route was originally laid by fur traders in the early 1800s, but was soon developed into a wagon route for those wishing to try their luck with a new life on the western frontier. The western end of the Trail was in Oregon City, which now sits a few miles south of Portland city centre and retains architecture from the Trail’s heyday.

City of Roses

Portland enjoys a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, with cool and rainy winters followed by warm, dry summers. Because of this, Portland is the ideal place to grow roses outdoors, leading to the nickname the City of Roses. There’s even a neighbourhood named after the phenomenon: Rose City Park was formed in 1907, the same year the now world-famous Portland Rose Festival was founded.


Anything but boring

Portland sits on a dormant volcanic field known as the Boring Lava Field. It’s not a slight on the field’s character, however, as the 1,500 square mile field is named after the nearby town of Boring. The Portland metropolitan area is one of few places in the United States to have extinct volcanoes within city limits, and the field has played an important tole in the development of Portland, from the growth of nature parks to the building of city infrastructure. Luckily for Portlanders, the probability of an eruption is very low, with the last eruptions taking place 57,000 years ago.


Portland is a sport-mad city. It’s home to three major league sport franchises (or ‘teams’ as the rest of the world calls them): the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. While Portland’s teams have enjoyed varied success, the city’s fans are renowned for their consistently-passionate support.

The Trail Blazers sold out every home game between 1977 and 1995, an 814-game streak that’s the second longest in American history. More recently, the Timbers joined MLS in 2011 and sold out every single home match until COVID measures ended the streak at a league-record 163 games.

Green Portland

Portland is often referred to as the USA’s greenest city. It’s easy to see why: half its power comes from renewable sources and there are over 300 miles of cycle paths, the highest concentration of vegetarian restaurants in the country and the highest number of urban parks per capita.

Its green infrastructure is miles ahead of the competition, using green streets, trees and ecoroofs to keep the city cool and protect water quality. A recent study saw Portland come out on top yet again as the country’s most sustainable city, with neighbour Seattle a close second. 


American Electric

Formula E has only missed racing in the USA once since its cars hit the track in 2014. Racing Stateside twice in Season 1 – a classic first race in Miami followed by a Californian debut at Long Beach – Formula E has now set up shop at four different locations across the country, travelling to Portland after one race in Miami, two appearances at Long Beach and five dramatic showings in New York City.

New home, classic circuit 

While the Southwire Portland E-Prix might be the city’s inaugural Formula E race, the series’ home is far from inexperienced. Portland International Raceway is a well-known destination for American motorsport, hosting IndyCar and NASCAR among others, along with featuring a dragstrip and motocross track. The historic racetrack only came to be, however, due to the flooding of the city of Vanport in 1948, which left only paved streets and concrete foundations standing. 

The Raceway runs for 3.13km and 12 turns, making it one of Formula E’s longest tracks, with flat straights and a hard chicane. In-keeping with Formula E’s green credentials, Portland is working to establish the track as carbon neutral.