Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Willamette River

The Willamette River (pronounced "wi-LAH-mut") is a tributary of the Columbia located within the State of Oregon. Flowing northward between the Coastal Range and Cascade Range, the river and its tributaries form a basin called the Willamette Valley containing the largest population centers and most fertile agricultural areas of Oregon. Historically the river has played a significant role in the settling of the Pacific Northwest and the movement of commercial goods, especially timber.

Major tributaries include the Santiam, the Yamhill, the Molalla, the Tualatin, and the Clackamas.

The Willamette arises in three separate forks, the North and Middle Forks which emerge on the western side of the Cascade range between Three Sisters south to Diamond Peak, and the Coast Fork, whose headwaters are in southern Lane County.

The three forks merge south of Eugene. From Eugene the Willamette flows north past Corvallis, Albany and Salem.

At Oregon City, the Willamette Falls mark the terminus of the navigable section of the river. Further north, the river divides Portland into east and west sections. North of Portland, the river splits into two channels around Sauvie Island before flowing into the Columbia.

The river forms part of the boundary of the following counties: Benton, Linn, Polk, Marion, Yamhill and Clackamas.

Tributaries of the Willamette River also drain some or all of Lane, Washington and Multnomah counties.

There are public locks to allow boat traffic around the falls, primarily used for recreational boating.

Although riverboats navigated the upstream part of the Willamette into the first decades of the 20th century, currently there is no commercial traffic on the river above the falls.

See also Oregon Country, Oregon missionaries.