Willamette Falls is the largest waterfall in the Northwest, dropping 42 feet in a horseshoe with a crest length of approximately 1700 feet. Due to the industrialization of Oregon City, the falls have lost most of its natural appeal. The land on both sides of the river immediately adjacent to the falls harbors, among other facilities, a hydroelectric station, a paper mill and one of the oldest set of operational locks in the United States. The Willamette River averages approximately 20,000 cubic feet per second of discharge above the falls, but because of the hydroelectric facility, the majority of that gets drawn off, so the average volume of water flowing over the falls likely doesn't top 5,000 cfs. Late in the summer the presence of the hydro facility is particularly noticeable as the falls are reduced severely and have been known to go almost completely dry in drought years.
- Willamette Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.
According to Oregon Geographic Names, the Willamette River was named for an Indian settlement somewhere in the vicinity of Oregon City known as "Wal-lamt", which may have meant "spill water", a reference to the falls. The falls were named for the river in the modern day. Oregon City was founded in 1845 on the banks of the falls, the paper mill opening in 1867. The city was originally known as Willamette or Willamette Falls.
There are several views of the falls available. Directions to 3 are given here. To reach all the viewpoints, drive along Interstate 205 to Oregon City / West Linn, about 15 miles south of Portland International Airport. 1 - Driving north along I-205, north bounders can get off at Exit 7 to stop at a scenic wayside, providing views down at the falls (north bound traffic only - seen above). 2 - Exit I-205 at the West Linn exit (Exit 8) and drive across the Oregon City Bridge. Distant views are had from the bridge. 3 - Proceed past the bridge views, and turn right on SR 99E for 1.2 miles to a signed viewpoint at the falls.