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Willamette Falls Locks

Willamette Falls Locks
Steamboat and barge traffic in the lock, circa 1915
Location West Linn, Oregon, USA
Built 1873
NRHP Reference # 74001680
Added to NRHP 1974

The Willamette Falls Locks are a lock system on the Willamette River in the US state of Oregon. Opened in 1873 and closed since 2011, they allowed boat traffic on the Willamette to navigate beyond Willamette Falls – since their closure in 2011 the locks are classified to be in a "non-operational status" and are expected to remain permanently closed.

Located in the Portland metropolitan area, the four inter-connected locks are 25 miles upriver from the Columbia River at West Linn, just across the Willamette River from Oregon City. The locks are operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and served primarily pleasure boats. These locks were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.


  • History 1
    • Repairs and closure 1.1
  • Details 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Entrance to locks at downstream side

The Willamette Falls Canal and Locks Company (later renamed Portland General Electric) was formed in 1868 to build a navigation route around the falls.[1] Construction then began on building a canal and lock system around the west end of the falls.[1] The locks opened on January 1, 1873, as the first multi-lift navigation locks in the United States at a cost of $560,000, and had been in continuous use until 2008. Maria Wilkins, a steamship, was the first vessel to use the locks.[1] The Army Corps of Engineers purchased the lock system from Portland General Electric in 1915 for $375,000.[1][2] The locks were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Repairs and closure

With no funding available to perform needed inspections and repairs, the locks were closed in January 2008.[3] In April 2009, as part of the federal government's economic stimulus plan, $1.8 million was allocated to repair and inspect the locks, with an additional $900,000 allocated in October 2009 for additional repairs and operational costs.[4] The locks reopened in January 2010 with the Willamette Queen the first vessel to pass.[5] The locks were open through the summer of 2010, and then due to a lack of federal funding for operations, were not scheduled to reopen for 2011.[6]

In December 2011, the locks were again closed, this time owing to the excessive corrosion of the locks' gate anchors. The further deterioration of the locks resulted in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reclassifying the locks as being in a "non-operational status," out of concern that any further operation of the locks could lead to a failure of the locks, posing a safety risk to the public. The locks are expected to remain permanently closed, as the lack of traffic through the locks makes funding for any repairs a low priority.[7] However, some interest groups are urging the Army Corps of Engineers to reopen the locks, at least seasonally, and the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners added its support to that effort in December 2014.[8]


Willamette Falls Locks. View is downstream to the northwest. The Old Oregon City-West Linn Bridge is visible in the distance.

The locks are owned and were operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and passage through the locks was free for both commercial and recreational boats. There are seven gates in four chambers which lift up to 50 feet (15.5 m) elevation change (depending on tides and river flow) with a usable width of 37 feet (11.2 m). The system is 3565 feet (1087 m) long, and can accommodate vessels up to 175 feet (53.3 m) long. Each of the four concrete constructed chambers are 210 feet by 40 feet.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Corning, Howard M. Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing, 1956.
  2. ^ "News Release 97–127" (Press release). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. December 29, 1997. Retrieved 2007-06-10. 
  3. ^ The Sunday Oregonian, Metro Northwest Section, page 3, January 13, 2008
  4. ^ Dungca, Nicole (October 28, 2009). "Second chance for Willamette Falls Locks, an Oregon treasure".  
  5. ^ Miner, Colin (January 28, 2010). "Passengers welcome for trip through Willamette Falls locks". The Oregonian. Retrieved January 28, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Lock Fest 2011 Canceled". Willamette Falls Heritage Foundation. April 12, 2011. Retrieved April 14, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Locks at Willamette Falls out of commission". Statesman Journal. Salem, Oregon. December 2, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Editorial: Endangered Willamette Falls Locks deserve a task force". The Oregonian. December 21, 2014. Retrieved 2015-01-12. 

External links

  • Army Corps of Engineers facts
  • End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center website
  • [2]
  • Willamette Falls Heritage Foundation
  • Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. OR-1, "Willamette Falls Lock Chamber No.1, Willamette River, West Linn, Clackamas County, OR", 14 photos, 5 measured drawings, 2 photo caption pages

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