The Willamette River is a vital, multi-purpose waterway in Oregon. It has the distinction of being the only major river west of the Mississippi River that primarily flows north.
The river starts in west central Oregon, and joins the McKenzie River at Eugene and flows past Corvallis, and Albany (where it is fed by the Calapooia River), it flows on through the broad and fertile Willamette Valley Region. After being joined by the Santiam River, it continues past Independence and Salem. At Oregon City, it tumbles over the Willamette Falls and passes through Portland before joining the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean.
The name, which is pronounced Will-AM-it, comes from the Indian word "Wal-lamt", which means "West Bank". This is because an early explorer asked the natives the name of the river. He pointed to the west side of the river, so the Indians gave him the name of the west bank. Thus, "Willamette" became the name of the entire river