Capture the Water

You’ll need to place something below the chains, either to help disperse the water or collect it for later use. A cairn of river rocks is simple to construct and helps prevent muddy splashing at the end of the chains. You can also create a drainage path leading the water to a garden or a cluster of moisture-loving ferns and reeds. And one easy solution is a classic rain barrel to save water for drier times. If you’d like to amplify the babbling, a large stone or metal bowl placed below a tinkling chain will produce some lovely, deeper water-music notes.

Diverting even a little water from the pipes makes a big impact, enough that the city will pay you to do it: $53 for every downspout you disconnect, if you’re in the current target area, plus a small sewer-bill discount based on the amount of storm water retained on your property. (Call 503-823-5858 for details.)

Where to Buy the Chains

Given our 36.3 inches of annual rainfall, the local selection of rain chains is surprisingly small. Smith & Hawken (smithandhawken.com) (26 NW 23rd Place) and Portland Nursery (portlandnursery.com) (two locations) carry both chain and copper cup styles for $45 to $109 each. Some chains give a nod to their Japanese origins in their shape: lotus flowers or lilies made of sculpted copper. Simpler, funnel-shaped cups have a geometric appearance that nicely melds traditional and modern aesthetics. If you enjoy a bit of whimsy, rainchains.com offers a design with small copper pineapples, the perfect touch for your Gilligan’s Island–themed garden.

A dearth of local choices is also a great reason to be inventive. W.C. Winks Hardware (200 SE Stark, winkshardware.com) offers simple steel chain, sold for $1.74 per foot, which will develop a patina over time. Or connect off-the-shelf, six-inch “S” hooks Barrel-of-Monkeys style—they’re as clever as they are fun to make. A quintessentially “Portland” solution might be to braid discarded tire chains into a stylish example of recycling. Drill holes through enameled camping cups, string them on cable like popcorn garland, and you might just start another local DIY cottage industry.

Helping the river has never been so beautiful. Loving the rain has never been so easy.