Located at the end of Main Street in Oregon City, Willamette Falls is the second largest waterfall in the United States, and sits next the industrial site of the Blue Heron Paper Mill, which was shuttered in a bankruptcy in 2011. The project aims to create a Riverwalk that connects people to the falls as well as a Willamette Falls Downtown District with spaces for housing, employers and recreation. When completed, the Riverwalk will give the public access to Willamette Falls for the first time in over 100 years.
The images generated by the design team during the selection process demonstrate the thinking and approach to the site. The final design for the new Riverwalk will be the result of an extensive public engagement process.
The magnetism of Willamette Falls is the genesis and spirit of place. The new design will provide an experiential glimpse of the fall’s power, one that transports visitors deep into history and highlights its ephemeral qualities.
The design team’s approach showed the falls and the complex material layers of the site as a portal to the Northwest’s collective history. The site’s strata tells the story of deep geology, dynamic hydrology, and vibrant ecology, together forming the spirit of place. It tells the story of Native Americans who first understood the site’s promise, fishing its waters and building deep tradition, as well as that of European immigrants who claimed Oregon City, carving out a grid and building settlements. It tells the story of workers and industrialists who ground flour, drove timber, spun wool, milled paper, and generated electricity. It will tell the story of you – the public - who will help lay down the next historic layer - an experiential riverwalk, foretelling a story of renewed economy, environmental sensitivity, and historic importance.