Photography and photojournalism in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest

Willamette Falls at Dusk

It’s true I enjoy shooting waterfalls and landscapes. But I’ve never shot a waterfall that is anything close to resembling Willamette Falls, which spans the Willamette River in Oregon between the cities of West Linn and Oregon City. This is the second largest waterfall in the United States after Niagra Falls when measured by the volume of water that passes over the falls. I had a hard time believing that, but all my trusty online sources assure me this is true.

So there I was tonight, a gorgeous, warm sunset fading away. I had just finished an assignment shooting photos from a boat near the dam shown here for a feature story. I actually saw this viewpoint as I headed up the hill to leave in my car and I immediately slammed on the brakes. I grabbed my tripod and camera, jumped out and spent the next 20 minutes shooting long exposures of the most industrialized dam I think I’ve ever seen. It’s a far cry from the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls I regularly visit, but it’s fascinating all the same.

Portland General Electric says the dam across the falls generates up to 14 megawatts of electricity, while white sturgeon live at the base of the falls under the 100-year-old Oregon City arch bridge that currently is undergoing restoration. The photo above shows just a fraction of the industry or history surrounding this stretch of the Willamette River. But the dam, as well as a seasonal temporary wooden dam, is visible in the light of the halide lamps.

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