Posts Tagged ‘Willamette Falls locks’

I had to leave work early today for an eye doctor’s appointment (I have glaucoma and have to see the eye doctor every six months). I work 15 miles from home (a drive that takes anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on traffic and time of day).

I was in the fast lane today: a twenty minute buzz back home with plenty of time to spare to make my appointment. The sun was shining, the clouds had parted, and I had my camera.

So I decided to take some more photos to fill in some gaps. I stopped at the little rest area where I photographed Mt. Hood and took photos of the hysterical, er – historical – markers there. (When Arwen was a little girl, she hated it when we could deliberately mispronounce historical. Even though she knew we were doing it on purpose, she would always say, “It’s historical!”)

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First, a little hysterical overview of Dr. John McLoughlin who was a philanthropist and all-around good guy, and the founder of the City of Oregon City which is directly opposite the river from this view point.

365 077 This guy with the frown on his face.

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A brief history of Willamette Falls. There are still some platforms on the rocky outcrops of the falls where Indians sometimes come to fish. I haven’t seen any Indians fishing from there in years, but I don’t always pay attention.

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There is no good place to view the falls from the view point (rather makes that a misstatement, except on an uncloudy day you can see Mt. Hood from here). But that was OK, because I not only had time on my hands, but I was a quarter mile from the nearest exit and the Oregon City Arch Bridge. In no time at all, I’d cross the river and headed south on 99E to the next view point (where I photographed the bust of Dr. McLoughlin).

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I did not take a photograph of Willamette Falls on the day I photographed the bust of the good doctor because the water was low and the falls were pretty ho-hum. Today the falls were back to normal.

When we first moved to the Portland metro area there was a dramatic rescue here. Some couple (she was pregnant) missed all the warning signs down river and plunged over the falls in their boat. It takes a lot of talent to miss all the warning signs. (Don’t worry: it actually ended well and the couple survived, quite intact. There have been houseboats torn loose from their moorings that have not fared so well.) As you can see, it is quite a drop: forty feet (12 meters).

Willamette Falls are the 18th largest falls in the world by water volume and the largest falls in the Pacific Northwest. There are locks on the western shoreline that are open seasonally. They are based on a design by Leonardo DaVinciĀ  and are levered (mitered), wooden structures. Don and I have attended the Lockfest for several years (it was canceled this year) and toured the locks several times. They’re very narrow and it is pretty impressive to watch them fill and drain.

I made a panorama of the falls to give you an impression of just how impressive they are.

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The Blue Heron Paper Mill is the structure on both sides of the Willamette River here. They ceased using toxic chemical to process the paper back in the late 1980’s and there isn’t that offensive bleach/sulphur odor associated with a lot of paper mills. Some mornings the steam rising from the mill is thick and foggy, and if it catches the morning sun right, it is pink. I love those mornings.

There is, unfortunately, not much opportunity for me to stop and take a photo of the paper mill on those days. Gotta go to work, you know.

The falls are 1500 feet (457.2 meters) across and horse-shoe shaped. During high water, the rocks disappear. During the “hundred year flood” times (1996 was the last such flood), the falls nearly disappear. Imagine the volume of water necessary to raise the river to that level!

After I snapped the photos, I jumped back in my truck. And noticed this little brass plaque.

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Now I find that bit of history fascinating. Peter Skene Ogden was quite the explorer and fur trader. From what I have read on the man, he was controversial and violent. But he successfully negotiated the release of the survivors of the Whitman Massacre, earning himself an honored place in history.

I was so pleased to have a beautiful day in which to capture these images. I’m especially pleased with how the panorama of the falls turned out. It really is that beautiful.

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Willamette Falls on the Willamette River, looking across at West Linn and the Blue Heron Paper Mill.

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