Willamette Falls set to reopen to public for first time in 100 years

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Construction work on the Willamette Falls Riverwalk Project will begin soon(Credit: Snøhetta)

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The largest waterfall in the Pacific Northwest and one of the most significant in the entire United States, Oregon City's Willamette Falls, has remained closed to the general public for around a century due to its use as an industrial center. However, as part of a larger scheme to redevelop the area, work will soon begin on building a new riverwalk along the edge of the falls.

Willamette Falls is cited by those involved as the second-largest waterfall in the United States by volume, and is also the 17th largest worldwide. The site contains several industrial buildings in various states of dilapidation, some of which were in use quite recently, including the Blue Heron Paper Mill.

Snøhetta, along with Mayer/Reed and Dialog, was given the nod for the redevelopment project following an international architecture competition. The current renders depict a hands-off plan that will largely maintain the existing landscape, with the addition of safety barriers and a path that comes close to the water's edge and snakes around – and into – the existing industrial buildings. It's early days yet though, and Snøhetta plans to consult with locals and refine its proposal further in the coming weeks.

"We believe that the site and the history it holds is a sublime, one-of-a-kind landscape that should not be upstaged by the hand of any designer," says Michelle Delk, Snøhetta’s Director of Landscape Architecture. "We are inspired by the complex strata of the site and its deep cultural history. By protecting, reusing, reducing, and adding, we will integrate and amplify the site’s strata into the Riverwalk."

Construction work on the Willamette Falls Riverwalk Project is due to begin sometime this (northern) summer. Longterm plans for the general area include new housing and commercial buildings, and recreational spaces.

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