Sunday, May 26, 2013

Willamette Falls from Oregon City bridge

In the several years I've lived in the PDX area, I've often driven past Willamette Falls on Hwy 99 and found the view from the car window to be elusive and mysterious.  And some sort of visitor center was equally elusive, but surely must exist somewhere, right?

Wrong.

I was really shocked on my first day moving to Oregon City when I found the local newspaper in my mailbox and the cover story was about how the falls may someday soon be adopted by the state and a State Park and Visitor Center will be created.  I read the article over and over again thinking I must be reading it wrong.  That maybe they meant the existing visitor center is outdated and needs renovations or something.  But no, there actually is no public viewing area that is close to the falls.

From Wikipedia, copied today 26 May 2013:
The public can view the falls from viewpoints on the bluffs of Oregon City, from a signed viewpoint along Highway 99E, from the Oregon City Bridge, from a viewpoint on northbound I-205, or from boats in the river.

That's it!  Those are the only public viewpoints!

And let me tell you, the "signed" viewpoint along Highway 99 has about a dozen parking spaces, and is nowhere near the actual falls.  So you have to plan the trip in advance, because the parking area is riverside before the falls, so by the time you actually get to the falls you have missed your chance to park, or if you are going the other direction you are out of luck unless you decide to turn around.  Then, you have to walk along the "sidewalk" on the side of the highway until you get as close to the falls as you can.

Other web sources hint that there actually is a visitor center, opposite the falls on the other side of the river (enter from West Linn), but that it's difficult to find, no signage, and located in the industrial center.  I will investigate and report back if this actually exists, but since there has been no reference to this in the local paper, and obviously none on Wikipedia, I am skeptical.

Here is my photo from the Oregon City bridge.  From my spot on the bridge, I could also see a couple of seniors who were walking the "sidewalk" down on Hwy 99 in an attempt to see the falls.  I could see from my viewpoint that their viewpoint was lousy.  (Nevertheless, I will do it myself sometime in the future, just to double check, and because the falls are just about my favorite thing about OC.)



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