“Drano Creek” is what neighbors called it on a hot day. Passersby could smell it before they saw it. Such was the state of Fanno Creek in Portland when Eric Lindstrom accidentally happened upon it — polluted with agricultural and industrial waste as well as raw sewage.

“The yin and the yang of the creek’s existence” is how Lindstrom characterizes the dividing of his prints into two distinct themes — the destruction and rebirth of Fanno Creek. This is the subject of his exhibition at the Washington County Museum, which opens Tuesday, May 6. An opening reception will be held 5 to 8 p.m.

The exhibit includes 30 captioned prints, carefully chosen — with the help of Barbara Mason and Karen Lange of the museum — to illustrate the creek’s physical features, key natural resources and the major challenges of its revitalization. by: COURTESY PHOTO - Eric Lindstroms photography centers on the before and after of Fanno Creek restoration.

The prints are among 1,000 photos taken by Lindstrom during his field research that make up the book, “Up Fanno Creek, Confessions of an Accidental Activist.”

“I’ve always been a nature lover,” Lindstrom said, citing his formative years in one of the most primitive areas of northern Arkansas, where he and his family lived in a one-room, 12-foot-by-24-foot shack a quarter of a mile from the nearest dirt road.

He recalls running free in old growth yellow pine forest and credits this experience with his self-reliance and willingness to venture into new endeavors including photography, teaching, program administration and development.

“I love to learn and I am damned good at it,” said Lindstrom, a grandfather of five.

Since 2006, Lindstrom has devoted himself to developing his learning skills. His best advice is that once you’ve picked a new area of study, “develop a personal curriculum map for that area.” In other words, figure out exactly how you’re going to study. For him, the process is intuitive but essential, and he goes so far as to sketch out a program.

Lindstrom also maintains a blog at, an engaging, photo-filled commentary — a perfect mixture of environmental information and personal moments that reveal the heart of this talented environmentally-minded writer and photographer.

“Mother was crazy about birds and their little secret ways,” he writes in his blog in December of last year. She also taught him about the winter solstice, calling it, “the beginning of all things.”

Another entry includes exploring the creek with grandson, Jake. Lindstrom ponders if these precious moments in nature they’ve shared will mark Jake as indelibly as they did himself.

The blog includes a photo of the “Green Heron Award,” a beautiful sculpture awarded Lindstrom by the Tualatin Riverkeepers.

“It came my way by virtue of contributions I’ve made in the past few years that have helped protect and restore the Tualatin River System,” he said.

“It was nature you could trust, nothing else. You could trust it to be exactly what it is, nothing more, nothing less,” Lindstrom wrote, recounting his mother’s teachings. “Bountiful-barren; wild-delicate; savage and soothing; temporal in the human sense, eternal in all others. Nature is the mystery — something more to contemplate and marvel at than to be understood or ‘explained.’”

“‘I’ve also been struggling with my role as ‘environmental activist.’ Just the mere fact that I feel compelled to put that title in quotations says a lot about how conflicted I am about the work I’ve been doing for the last few years,” Lindstrom said. “Apparently I am destined to continue doing that kind of work for the foreseeable future.”

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