Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Willamette Falls Locks, West Linn, Oregon"
Includes ... Willamette Falls ... Willamette Falls Locks ... Oregon City ... West Linn ... National Register of Historic Places ...
Image, 2006, Willamette Falls Locks, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Willamette Falls Locks, West Linn, Oregon, looking downstream. Image taken February 19, 2006.


Willamette Falls Locks ...
The locks at Willamette Falls were built in the early 1870s and have been in continuous use since January 1, 1873. The locks hold the distinction of being the first multi-lift navigation locks built in the United States. Total length of the locks is 3,565 feet and the usable width is 37 feet, with total lift being a little over 50 feet. The locks can handle a vessel up to 175 feet long. The lock chambers are made from locally-quarried stones ranging in size from 5 feet to 15 feet high. The lock walls have remained watertight for more than 130 years. The original lockmaster's office has been converted into a museum, and displays photographs of the historic locks.

After passing through the hands of several different owners, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bought Willamette Falls Locks in 1915 and has operated them ever since. A renovation in 1916 included deepening the lock chamber from 3 feet to 6 feet. A renovation in the 1940s included installing a hydraulic system for opening and closing the gates (until that time the gates had been opened and closed manually). By the 1970s commerce traffic (mainly log rafts since the 1940s) had dwindled and today small pleasure boats are the main users of the locks.


Image, 2004, Sign, Oregon History, Willamette Falls Locks, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Sign, Oregon History, Willamette Falls. Image taken February 15, 2004.


Views of the Locks ...

Image, 2006, Willamette Falls Locks, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Willamette Falls Locks, West Linn, Oregon. Looking upstream. Image taken February 19, 2006.
Image, 2006, Willamette Falls Locks, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Gate, Willamette Falls Locks, West Linn, Oregon. Looking downstream. Image taken February 19, 2006.
Image, 2006, Willamette Falls Locks, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Willamette River looking at the downstream end of the Locks, West Linn, Oregon. Image taken February 19, 2006.


National Register of Historic Places ...
In 1974 the Willamette Falls Locks were placed on the National Register of Historic Places (Structure #74001680) for transportation, and in 1991 the locks were was designated as a State Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the History and Heritage Committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers for being Oregon's first water resources development project.

Image, 2006, Willamette Falls Locks, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Willamette Falls Locks National Historic Site, West Linn, Oregon. Image taken February 19, 2006.


Willamette Falls ...
The Willamette Falls are located at Oregon City, Oregon, where the Willamette River spills about 40 feet over horseshoe-shaped basalt ridge. Lewis and Clark make many references to the "falls of the Multnomah" and the Indian tribe which lived there. The falls were a major salmon fishing location. Later the falls furnished the power for a lumber mill (1842), a flour mill (1844), a woolen mill (1864), and the first paper mill in the Pacific Northwest (1867). The first long-distance commercial electric power transmission in the United States went from Willamette Falls to the City of Portland in 1889. In 1873, the Willamette Falls Locks were opened when the steamer Maria Wilkins became the first vessel to navigate up the west end of the falls.
[More]

Image, 2006, Willamette Falls and Mount Hood, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Willamette Falls, Oregon City, Oregon, with Mount Hood. Image taken February 19, 2006.
Image, 2006, Rainbow, Willamette Falls, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Rainbows, Willamette Falls, Oregon. Image taken February 19, 2006.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, April 2, 1806 ...





Clark, April 3, 1806 ...




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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources:
  • End of the Oregon Trail website, 2004;
  • National Register of Historic Places website, 2005;
  • State of Oregon History Signs, 2004, Willamette Falls Overlook off of Interstate-205;
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2004;


All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
/Regions/Places/willamette_falls_locks.html
September 2008