The dividing lines of Oregon come in a few different forms: county boundaries, city boundaries, longitude and latitude, or east or west of the river, and so on. Baselines and meridians, which are the guiding lines for geographic division in geology, urban planning, and even political districts, are perhaps the most powerful of them all. West of the Cascades, Oregon and Washington rely on the Willamette Meridian and its perpendicular baseline to help determine county boundaries, street trajectories and even land claims. The intersection of the two occurs at the Willamette Stone in the West Hills of Portland, nearby the Mount Cavalry Catholic Cemetery.
Naturally, the Boundary had to check it out. According to Wikipedia, the stone dates back to pioneer times: it was originally an obelisk that served as the central point for a grid system of townships and ranges under the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850. The replacement stone is quite small–about four or five inches in diameter–and marks the point’s original date: June 4, 1851. The first marker was not actually a stone, but a redcedar stake.
The Willamette Meridian overlays NW and SW 65th Avenue in Portland, and Stafford Road in Clackamas County. It also serves as the easternmost boundary of Washington County, which itself is a political boundary for the First and Fifth Congressional Districts as well as the 27th, 34th, 35th and 36th districts in the State House. The Meridian is 65 streets west of the Willamette River at Burnside because the original location was to be west of Vancouver Lake. The Willamette baseline is perhaps better known at some points as Portland’s Stark Street, Hillsboro’s Baseline Road, and the Baseline Road of Hood River, Gilliam and Morrow counties. Take that, 45th Parallel!
You can find the Willamette Stone Heritage Area on W Skyline Blvd., just west of the intersection with W Burnside Road. See it before all the state’s sesquicentennial fun starts.