Willamette Falls, Oregon City

3.3
#4 of 6 in Nature in Clackamas County
The Willamette Falls is a natural waterfall on the Willamette River between Oregon City and West Linn, Oregon, in the United States. It is the largest waterfall in the American Pacific Northwest by volume, and the seventeenth widest in the world. Horseshoe in shape, it is 1500ft wide and 40ft high with a flow of 30,849 cu ft/s (874 m³/s), located 26mi upriver from the Willamette's mouth.Until 2011 a canal and set of locks allowed vessels to pass into the main Willamette Valley. Those locks are now closed.Human historyNative American legends taught that the falls were placed there by a great god so that their people would have fish to eat all winter. Many local tribes built villages in the area because of the abundance of salmon that could only pass the falls at certain water levels. Native Americans still harvest Pacific Lamprey at the falls each year in the early summer. Willamette Falls is a traditional fishing site for the Warm Springs Indians as well as other tribes. It was first discovered by European fur traders in 1810. John McLoughlin established a land claim at the falls in the name of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1829. Oregon City was established in 1842 near the east end of the falls. The town of Linn City was founded on the western shore one year later in 1843. The two towns competed economically, vying for the lucrative steamboat traffic and the trade it generated. With the falls representing the end of the line for boat traffic, river boat captains were forced to choose a side of the river on which they would dock to unload their passengers and goods; some of which would continue their upriver journey on winding portage toll roads. Competition between the towns was fierce until the winter of 1861, which saw one of Oregon's worst natural disasters occur in the form of catastrophic flooding. Oregon City was inundated and badly damaged, but the unluckier Linn City was obliterated.
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  • Oregon City is a surprise. Beautiful downtown, murals and an odd elevator that takes you to the ridge overlooking the city and Willamette Falls. The Blue Heron Paper Co. is defunct and derelict; they ...  more »
  • I was in Oregon recently and we stopped on Highway99E? I believe, at the viewing point to observe these falls. It is a good job I looked on Tripadviser to see them as there was so much greenery in bet...  more »
  • A friend & I took a boat about as close as anyone would dare to the falls. I know there are places up above that you can check them out as well. We we're here fishing and had great luck. There are a t...  more »

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