The Willamette Fall Trust is working to create a place where people can fully experience the beauty of the continents’ second most powerful waterfall, Willamette Falls, up close. The group plans to achieve this by creating a Riverwalk, which will give the public access to the intricacies of the river and waterfall. A few of the plans are to add a series of winding promenades and lofting pathways along the Willamette River to give people a great experience with the river and an intimate view of the Falls. The goal is to add an overlook at the precipice of the Falls and connect the Falls to downtown Oregon City. Designs for phase one of the Riverwalk are in the final stages and they are getting ready to start construction.
Willamette Falls Trust wants to make the Riverwalk into a place to tell stories of the communities that intersect at the Falls and the histories of the place.
Willamette Falls Trust has shared renderings of plans for what the future Riverwalk will look like.
Willamette Falls Trust is not currently adding volunteers because of pandemic guidelines, but the nonprofit hopes to soon. You can sign up here to stay updated on volunteer possibilities in the future.
The current plans for the Willamette Falls Riverwalk include repurposing one of the former mill buildings into a three-story structure which will provide visitors with an overlook of the falls and Willamette River, restored habitat and gathering spaces as well as the historic and cultural interpretation of the site.
“I was born and raised near Willamette Falls. I remember as a child, when we’d drive by and catch a glimpse of the Falls—and how extraordinary it was. As an adult, I feel that same awe. I will often pull over to the outlook on a sunny day to take in the view. It’s amazing how quickly looking over such beauty calms me and makes me feel at home.
My hope is that the Riverwalk will create that same sense of belonging for others, whether they live here or are just visiting. It’s what made me want to volunteer. Because this project is so much more than constructing buildings and walkways to view the largest waterfall in the Northwest. It is about celebrating people—past and present—who have built their lives around the Falls. It’s about safeguarding and sharing a beautiful landmark and habitat in a meaningful way.
I chose to volunteer because listening to and honoring the many histories and lifeways found at the Falls feels important to me. And I want to be part of bringing people together for the betterment of our community and environment.
My experience volunteering with Willamette Falls Trust has been meaningful in many ways. I immediately felt a kinship with the staff, and I appreciate how welcoming they are. My volunteer work is often behind the scenes, yet I still feel a connection with the community. It’s allowed me to contribute as many hours as I can to a project that protects and restores the beauty and environment of the Falls and creates a space to share our stories for many generations to come.
Being part of reimagining this spectacular place is meaningful beyond words.”
Willamette Falls Trust is the nonprofit organization raising funds and engaging the community to realize the collective vision for a spectacular Riverwalk at the Falls. This vision includes an overlook at the precipice of the Falls, a connection to Oregon City’s downtown, and opportunities to learn more about the significance of Willamette Falls since time immemorial.
As we curate this collective vision for Willamette Falls, we partner closely with the Willamette Falls Legacy Project—the public-sector collaboration that is managing Riverwalk construction—and our other partners, including:
Confederated Tribes and Bands of The Yakama Nation
Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde
Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians
Confederated Tribes of The Umatilla Indian Reservations
Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs
Downtown Oregon City Association
Portland General Electric
Rivers of Life
Travel Oregon/Mt Hood Territory
West Linn Paper
We Love Clean Rivers
Willamette Falls Heritage Foundation
Willamette Falls and Landings Heritage Area Coalition
Oregon City, OR. There’s an update on the plans for a special Riverwalk along the Willamette Falls in Oregon City. Details were provided by Andrew Mason, the Executive Director of the Willamette Falls Trust. He explained that when the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde purchased the former Blue Heron mill located adjacent to Willamette Falls last August, the news was welcomed by the Willamette Falls Trust which is spearheading the revitalization of the falls including the Willamette Falls Riverwalk project. (Tribe members have taken ceremonial fish at the falls for years.)
The Tribe has since applied for $975,000 in grants to assist with site assessments and clean up, and they are working with local architecture and landscape design firms to create a future vision for their property. Their land purchase and the results of Willamette Falls Legacy Project’s detailed cost estimating also sparked new thinking around what could be accomplished during the Phase One portion of the project.
After purchasing the property, Grand Ronde proposed an alternative approach to Phase One. If feasible, it would include a riverside path to a scenic overlook of the Falls, which differs from the previous plan to route people through the former mill. A focus of the proposal is to increase public safety during any construction happening on Grand Ronde’s property. It would also provide more opportunities to view the river along the way to the Falls overlook. Phase One of the Riverwalk still aims to restore habitat along the riverbank and prepare the site for future phases of construction.
The groundbreaking schedule initially planned for 2020, has shifted to accommodate looking into this opportunity. Project partners—Oregon City, Clackamas County, Metro and State of Oregon—will consider the proposal after the Grand Ronde team completes the design and construction cost estimate.
Andrew Mason explained, “We continue to receive unprecedented community and financial support. While additional funds will be needed to get us to the finish line on this visionary project, we’re grateful for the continued donations and volunteer hours given, including more than $7 million from donors within and outside our community, as well as $20 million from the passage of Metro’s parks and nature bond measure in November.”
Willamette Falls has always been the cornerstone Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde tribal culture. In 2018 the Grand Ronde Tribe received a permit from the Oregon Department of State Lands to construct a fishing platform on state lands at Willamette Falls.
The scaffold allows the Grand Ronde Tribe to safely harvest ceremonial fish at Willamette Falls at the time of year when their ancestors historically took the first fish from the Falls. The Tribe has taken ceremonial fish at the falls for the past three years.
Our mission is to champion and sustain a world-class Willamette Falls experience that offers year-round access to the grandeur of the Falls, historic and cultural interpretation, healthy habitat, public open spaces, and that showcases the hospitality of historic Oregon City.
Willamette Falls Trust is the organization bringing people and communities together to make the new vision for a world-class public space along the Willamette River in Oregon City, Oregon a reality.
We are raising the funds and creating the partnerships to support the first phase of transformation, which includes an overlook at the precipice of the Falls, a connection to Oregon City’s downtown, and opportunities to explore history.
We work closely with Willamette Falls Legacy Project—the public-sector collaboration that kick-started this work—and others, as we steward the collective vision for Willamette Falls. The project has the support of Governor Kate Brown, state legislators, local and regional council members—and has been designed with input from thousands of Oregonians.
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