Willamette River

Topics: Oregon, Columbia River, Willamette River Pages: 1 (384 words) Published: September 1, 2013
The Willamette River (pronounced "Wil-LAM-it": Listeni/wɨˈlæmɨt/) is a major tributary of the Columbia River, accounting for 12 to 15 percent of the Columbia's flow. The Willamette's main stem is 187 miles (301 km) long, lying entirely in northwestern Oregon in the United States. Flowing northward between the Oregon Coast Range and the Cascade Range, the river and its tributaries form the Willamette Valley, a basin that contains two-thirds of Oregon's population, including the state capital, Salem, and the state's largest city, Portland. Portland surrounds the Willamette's mouth at the Columbia. Originally created by plate tectonics about 35 million years ago and subsequently altered by volcanism and erosion, the river's drainage basin was significantly modified by the Missoula Floods at the end of the most recent ice age. Humans began living in the watershed over 10,000 years ago. There were once many tribal villages along the lower river and in the area around its mouth on the Columbia. Indigenous peoples lived throughout the upper reaches of the basin as well. Rich with sediments deposited by flooding and fed by prolific rainfall on the western side of the Cascades, the Willamette Valley is one of the most fertile agricultural regions in North America, and was thus the destination of many 19th-century pioneers traveling west along the Oregon Trail. The river was an important transportation route during this time, although Willamette Falls, just upstream from Portland, was a major barrier to boat traffic. In the 21st century, major highways follow the river and roads cross it on more than 50 bridges. Since 1900, more than 15 large dams and many smaller ones have been built in the Willamette's drainage basin, and 13 of them are managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The dams are used primarily to produce hydroelectricity, to store water for irrigation, and to divert water into deeper, narrower channels in order to prevent flooding. The river and...
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