In 1879, a visionary group of Portland families purchased 300 acres on the west side of the Willamette River to create a "garden cemetery" that would offer refuge from the bustle of dense city life.
When River View Cemetery opened in 1882, it was one of a select group of North American rural landscape cemeteries following the example of Mount Auburn near Boston. River View and other similar cemeteries served as early urban parks, providing places for picnics and walks.
Unlike cemeteries operated by local governments or religious or fraternal orders, River View was incorporated as a non-profit endowment care cemetery mutually owned by all who purchase plots. Since 1882, River View Cemetery has been managed by a volunteer board of trustees, all of whom have a family heritage connection to River View.
Upholding the founders' vision, River View remains a popular destination for community members who seek the solace of its greenspaces, stunning views of Mt. Hood, and nearly 70 forested acres of deep ravines and year-round streams. Resident bald eagles and deer are a frequent sight alongside 23 species of mammals, amphibians and birds. While dogs are not allowed, River View is a favorite place for walkers and bicycle commuters (on designated routes).
River View Cemetery
Address: 300 S. Taylors Ferry Rd., Portland
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends
Since its inception, River View has been innovative. Its grand curvilinear roadways, pockets of gardens and distinctive majestic trees give the cemetery an arboretum-like feel. In the 1940s, world-renowned architect Pietro Belluschi designed the Adams Chapel in River View's mausoleum, while River View's trustees added an onsite crematorium. A funeral home was established in 2004 to further provide service to Portland families.
With its history of progressive cemetery management and ongoing environmental stewardship with West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District, River View is a leader in responding to consumer demand for more environmentally-friendly funeral and burial options.
Nearly a third of River View's burial clients chose natural burial. Others select Aqua Cremation, an environmentally-friendly alternative to flame cremation and conventional burial. Known as alkaline hydrolysis, this flameless process uses a combination of water flow, temperature and alkalinity to accelerate disposition, similar to the process of natural burial.
Within the next two years, "The Meadow" at River View will open as a new, dedicated natural burial area, with native plants and natural memorial marker options. Eventually, River View will host forested natural burial within its 25 undeveloped acres. A portion of every natural burial cemetery purchase helps maintain the health of the creeks and forest habitat in the beautiful canyons that run through the property, through the River View Cemetery Land Conservation Program.
River View is seeking community input on the design of its Natural Burial Meadow and on managing the increasing number of scooters, hoverboards and cyclists using the cemetery. To join these discussions or learn more about pre-planning funeral arrangements, genealogy research, self-guided historic walking tours or environmental restoration efforts, use the contact form on the River View website (bit.ly/2021LunchLearn).