There’s no telling when the first person set eyes on the Willamette Falls, but Native American legend says a god put the great, gushing waterway there so come wintertime, the indigenous people would have plenty of fish to eat. The first time you set eyes on the horseshoe-shaped cascade the second largest waterfall in the U.S., behind Niagara it’s certain to be a memorable experience, especially if it’s at the Willamette Falls Festival (Oct. 12-14) in historic Oregon City.
The first city west of the Rockies to be incorporated, Oregon City has used the Willamette River as its engine for more than 150 years, deriving industry and electricity from the perpetually flowing falls. This three-day festival celebrates the reopening of the historic arch bridge that connects Oregon City with West Linn — a gracefully swooping structure that frames scenic views of the waterfall, while providing commuters with practical means to cross the river. On this weekend, however, people will rule the roadway, meaning pedestrians are free to bike, jog, walk and even picnic on the bridge when the parade or fun run aren’t crossing from one bank to another, of course.
Live music, a Saturday market, an interactive sculpture project and an art walk contribute to the festivities. Meanwhile, educational activities like a Native American fishing demonstration, heritage walking tour, open houses and geocache sites make it a fun learning experience suitable for all ages. But remember, it’s not every day or every year, for that matter that you get to explore a newly re-opened bridge, without restriction. So be sure to shoot down to the falls, because, like a great legend, this once-in-a-long-while opportunity is something you won’t soon forget.