Next to Mt. Hood, Willamette Falls is probably the most iconic and photographed location in all of Mt. Hood Territory. The sheer power of the falls combined with their scenic beauty and important role in Oregon's history make them a popular stop on the itinerary. Sightseers are generally kept at arm's length, however, due to safety restrictions and limited access to the falls, as the only way to reach them is through private property at the now defunct Blue Heron papermill site. The Willamette Falls Legacy Project has put together a special tour that will give people the chance to get a much closer look at the falls and learn about future developments.
Willamette Falls has played an important role throughout Oregon's history. Native American tribes would gather here and collect fish along the banks of the river. Some tribal members continue this practice today, harvesting lamprey eels from the rocks. Later the falls played a vital part in the development of not just Oregon City, but Portland as well. They generated electricity that ran the mills which in turn helped build Oregon's fledgling infrastructure.
The tours are showcasing the proposed future Riverwalk and mill redevelopment site, which plan on turning this one-time industrial facility into a world-class attraction with dining, shops and event space all overlooking Willamette Falls. Guests will be able to tour the site and some of the historic mill buildings before heading out onto the PGE dam for a unique, close-up view of the falls. The tours are free to the public, but tickets must be reserved in advance by going here.
These tours are your chance to truly appreciate the beauty and the power behind Willamette Falls, and maybe play a part in the next chapter of their long story. To learn more about the history of the communities surrounding the falls, check out the Willamette Falls Heritage Trail brochure for a self-guided tour.