Sue Marshall nurtures Oregon’s Tualatin River

Bonnie Henderson  – September 16, 2004

In her free time, Sue Marshall can most often be found in a canoe on the lower Tualatin River southwest of Portland, a verdant stretch of mostly flat water overhung with maples and willows and home to ospreys and herons. In her role as executive director of Tualatin Riverkeepers, Marshall tends to advocate more than recreate. But she hasn’t forgotten the third element of the group’s three-part mission: Protect, restore, and enjoy.

“Slow and lazy” is the most likely translation of the Atfalati Indian name for the 79-mile river that drains Washington County. “Stagnant and polluted” is how it’s been perceived for most of the last half-century―and rightly so, says Marshall. Before the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Tualatin carried more than its share of raw sewage. Those days are gone, but it’s had a hard time shaking the bad rep. And relatively few of the half-million people living in the Tualatin basin have any personal acquaintance with the river beyond glimpsing it from a freeway bridge.

Neither did Marshall, until she joined the Riverkeepers’ first annual Discovery Day paddle (Jun 26 this year; free) in June 1990. Next thing she knew, she was president of the board. Since then, she and her staff of 5, along with 60 volunteers, have produced a guide to paddling, Exploring the Tualatin River Basin, with directions to 85 parks and public-access sites. They also offer paddle trips about three times a month.

“The Tualatin River really needed a PR agent,” says Marshall of the impulse behind the book. “It really is a fabulous resource that people can enjoy―and there is a lot more to be done.”

On the Water

For information on Tualatin paddle trips or to buy their book, contact Tualatin Riverkeepers ( or 503/590-5813).


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