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Willamette Falls

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Revision as of 16:40, 9 April 2020 by Bobcat (Talk | contribs)

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Willamette Falls and Mt. Hood from the I-205 viewpoint (bobcat)
Willamette Falls from Oregon City (bobcat)
Looking across to the paper mill complex and old hydroelectric plant, Willamette Falls (bobcat)


Willamette Falls is a horseshoe-shaped block waterfall that plunges 40+ feet over a basalt ledge. In times of very high water, as in the floods of December 1996, only about 10 feet of the waterfall may show. The falls span the Willamette River between Oregon City and West Linn and have been much altered by human activity. Several paper mills were built next to the falls, the first one in 1866. The last mill here, that of the Blue Heron Paper Company, closed in 2011. A PGE hydroelectric plant constructed in 1888 is now part of the Blue Heron Paper Mill complex. A fish ladder was constructed in 1882 and then replaced with a more effective channel in 1971. A weir also runs across the top of the falls. In the mid-19th century, various river steamer companies had docks above the falls to take passengers up the Willamette River. The portage route at Oregon City went over Canemah Bluff (See the Canemah Bluff Loop Hike). Later, a series of four lock chambers was constructed in 1873 and was in continuous use until 2011, when they were closed. These were the first multi-lift locks built in the United States.

The presence of industry here means the public does not get close access to the falls. With the closure of the Blue Heron Paper Mill, however, there are plans to construct public access ways on both the Oregon City and West Linn sides of the river. Sea lions can often be observed feeding at the base of the falls during salmon runs.

Willamette Falls is the largest waterfall by volume in the Pacific Northwest. Both Celilo Falls and Kettle Falls were larger (as was the massive, but prehistoric Dry Falls that formed during the Bretz Floods), but both have been drowned by manmade lakes on the Columbia River. Willamette Falls is billed as the second most powerful waterfall in the United States and the 17th widest waterfall in the world.

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bobcat (creator)

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