A viewing area in Snøhetta’s design for the new river walk (Courtesy of Snøhetta)
It’s a sunny morning at Willamette Falls in Oregon City, Oregon, and despite being many miles inland, a sea lion is fattening up on a diet of salmon and steelhead. As birds circle overhead, the sound of the horseshoe-shaped falls—carrying rain and Cascade snowmelt from the Willamette River to the Columbia River and the Pacific — is thunderous. “It’s a good day to view the falls,” says Carlotta Collette, a councilor with Metro, the Portland metro area’s regional government, as we stand on a viewing platform that will be part of the future Willamette Falls Riverwalk.
“It’s almost always a good day to view the falls. And we have an opportunity right now to share it for the first time in 150 years.” Willamette Falls is the second largest waterfall by volume in the United States, after Niagara, and the largest in the waterfall-heavy Pacific Northwest. But despite the aforementioned wildlife—including fish and Pacific lamprey that Native American tribes like the Clackamas Chinook have ritually harvested for generations—it would be a mistake to call this a natural wonderland. For more than a century, Willamette Falls has been […]