The Willamette Basin
The Willamette Valley in Northwestern Oregon unfolds between the volcanic cones of the Cascade Range to the East and the forested Coast Range mountains to the West. The particularly fertile soils and favorable climate of the Valley began attracting European settlers, and their various agricultural enterprises, over a hundred and fifty years ago. The thick stands of trees on each of its opposing slopes have attracted lumber operations for just as long. More recently, the Valley has amassed a large human population and a more diversified industrial economy anchored by the Portland Metropolitan Area to the North.
Amidst all of these natural amenities and human development, the Willamette River and its tributaries drains enough water to make it the 13th largest river in the lower 48 states. The entire Willamette River Basin includes a land area of around 11,500 square miles, a population of around 2.5 million, and around 75 percent of Oregon's economic activity.
While the ascendant industries that are creating athletic apparel, microchips and pinot noir may reflect the Willamette River Basin’s diverse future, the traditional industries that supported the valley's original European settlers continue to play a significant and vital role.