The Willamette River was once a braided river—many shallow channels woven together, dotted with islands and shallow lakes. As the river approached its confluence with the Columbia, it fanned out into a vast network of wetlands, nurturing an abundance of plant and animal life, and since time immemorial, it was the home to several tribes and bands of Indigenous People.
Today there are few remnants of this vibrant river habitat, almost none inside Portland’s city limits. But while the North Reach of the Willamette is now a paved over, polluted industrial wasteland, there are still reminders of the river’s natural wealth along the South Reach, starting about four miles south of downtown Portland. And while the industrialized North Reach can never be a braided river again, the amazing natural areas in the South Reach help us imagine what the river once was and how it still could be.
If you look at the river long enough you can see that it has its own story to tell. You can let yourself imagine how the river was a braided river. There were areas that you could actually walk through to get to the other side.
Michael Pouncil, Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group
There’s different bars and islands and lakes and wetlands. It’s just kind of this magical landscape and it was like that for thousands of years.
Sarah Taylor – Braided River Campaign