Mothing in Portland -- how safe are parks at night? :) Or, where should I moth?

Hey Portland and Oregon/Washington iNatters (most of whom I've never met),

I'll be jumping up to Portland for the International Urban Wildlife Conference ( on 1 - 6 June, and I'll bring a little mothing set-up with a couple black lights. I'll be staying at the University Place Hotel (310 SW Lincoln Street, Portland, OR 97201), and Marquam Nature Park is like half a mile away (definitely walking distance).

Curious to anyone familiar -- is this park relatively safe -- like at night?

I'd been here once before in 2015 (, but I can't really recall the area as far as safety goes...

If there's another place that could be better for moths (and personal safety!), I'd love to hear some suggestions.

Thanks! :)

Posted on 13 May, 2019 03:44 by sambiology sambiology


My 'mothing' is done in my back yard for the most part. I've not been to the park you mention so do not have any direct experience with it. If you want to get some moths in my back yard you would be more than welcome to. I live very close to the MAX Green Line. There are some close by that do have gates on them that close at night (Mt Talbert - Metro; Powell Butte - City). Let me know if you need some help exploring some nearby areas that aren't official parks.

Posted by geographerdave about 5 years ago

I was attempting to get a moth survey on Powell Butte before I retired from Portland Parks & Recreation. We also had conducted a number of bio-blitzes on Powell Butte in conjunction with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council.

I believe having some idea of the moth diversity is important to the overall ecological management of the butte. The avian surveys that we conducted suggested an importance of the Lepidoptera for supporting the spring nesting.

Powell Butte has a high species diversity and a complex ecotome. For overall diversity I would rank Powell Butte 600 acres, Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge 200 acres, Forest Park 5,000 acres, and Mt. Tabor.

I can connect with the park mtg. staff. With PP&R support, I believe after hours access can be arranged.


Posted by carexobnupta about 5 years ago

You might inquire with Friends of Marquam Nature Park . A few years ago it did have a few homeless encampments. TripAdvisor reviews refer to poor signage that thwarts those not familiar with the park.

Found this review on Yelp:

So, it's a little difficult to find if you don't already know the neighborhood. Especially at night. The trails are extensive though not particularly well-maintained, and the parking lot it teeny-tiny. Since this park is mostly a big network of trails, that may or may not matter to you. It's definitely not good for anything that doesn't involve the use of a trail, and the trails are a wreck when it rains. Not a frisbee and flip-flops kind of park.

But the trails go all over the place (even up to Council Crest), and there are tons of native plants and natural areas -- which is awesome for aspiring botanists like me. I'll definitely be back!

Posted by amymoonlady about 5 years ago

Marquam Nature Park is pretty safe at night. Its in a nice neighborhood with low crime. I'd be much more worried about heading north from the hotel when it comes to crime. An easy-ish place to set up would be Duniway Park Lilac Garden on the way to Marquam. the benefit of this location is that its a relatively open park and you can direct you light towards a hillside of forest, but if you've got two rigs with you I might set one up there and then one at where Shelter loop and Sunnyside Trail come together in Marquam Nature Park as that will give you a chance to pull the moths that hang out deeper in the doug fir forest.

Posted by damontighe about 5 years ago

I've hiked in Marquam Nature Park a few times over the past two years, and I agree with most of what's already been said.
According to the FMNP site, they're apparently in the process of installing new directional signs (thank goodness), and I know the trails match up reasonably well to the map ( Trail quality varies throughout the park, and the ones on the steeper bits of hill (which is a lot of the park) can get pretty narrow.
One thing the review Amy shared doesn't mention is that English ivy has taken over much of the park. If that matters to you, I think it's not quite as bad closer to Council Crest and in the southern part of the park.
While homeless encampments aren't as big of a problem in the park as they've been in the past, a few months ago I did encounter a guy sleeping in the Marquam Shelter.

Posted by chemistree about 5 years ago

This is super helpful -- thanks everyone! :)

I'm going to try for Marquam, but if I think it's too spoooooky, I'll shuffle off to somewhere else. I usually dress up as a giant moth, so I'm sure that most other folks will be more scared of me. :)

Posted by sambiology about 5 years ago

I agree that Powell Butte should have some good moth diversity. Probably won't run into people at night. However, please be aware that the houseless population in Portland has skyrocketed in the past 4 years so you may well run into someone camping no matter what public space you visit at night.

Posted by dnewberry about 5 years ago

I'm late but if you can check out the park in the daytime first, the camps can randomly pop up. Marquam is great and it's close. In case you change your mind I'd add my backing for Powell Butte NP and Oaks Bottom. I access Powell Butte after hours at the SE entrance at Ellis and 145th Ave. and maybe carexobnupta can hook up an official nighttime visit.

Posted by dirb72 about 5 years ago

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