Willamette River, Oregon, USA


“Being a new transplant to Oregon from dry New Mexico I was immediately drawn to all the water that surrounds Portland. Water seems to be flowing from every pore of this city. There are bubbling public water fountains on sidewalks and in parks and numerous waterfalls, creeks, lakes, and rivers. It is obvious that Portland was built and runs on water. My public water supply is even a local river, it is untreated and tastes wonderful.

The closest water source to my house is the Willamette RIver and it is the heart of Portland. It flows through the middle of the city under a multitude of bridges that keep the city connected. It is Oregon’s largest river and, by volume, is the 13th largest river in the US. One of the things that makes it unique is that it flows south to north where it meets and joins forces with the mighty Columbia River.

When I began to explore Portland I was immediately struck by how close water was and how it surrounded the city. It seemed easily accessible, but as I tried to get close I realized that the waters edge seemed to be guarded by industry. For a town that was built on timber it made sense that everything would radiate from the waters edge, but I assumed that you would have a multitude of access points. Don’t get me wrong there are parks and areas that you can get to the water but they seem smaller, fewer and far between than I would have thought.

I was elated upon finding the closest park that allowed river side access but that moment faded quickly as I saw the signs warning of toxic fish and heavy pollution. This section of river that is closest to my home and my new stomping grounds is know as the Portland Harbor. In doing a bit of research I quickly learned that this particular area of river is a designated Superfund cleanup site and has been horribly mistreated. A wide variety of pollutants such as raw sewage, heavy metals and pesticides had been poured into this 12 mile section of the river for quite sometime. I have hope that the EPA, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the local industries that are responsible for the river will fulfill its cleanup promise, which is currently in the works.

I do still love being near the water and thrive on seeing the associated wildlife, but can’t help but feel sad for the health of this wonderful landscape that I call home.” — Artist, Jenna Gersbach, aka MyHungryEye; Website and Blog