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by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - A Willamette Jetboat is pictured next to Willamette Falls in Oregon City; an upper river tour is planned next weekend.Willamette River recreation advocates say they’re not going to let the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ inability to reopen the shuttered Willamette Falls Locks stand in the way of their having fun on an Upper Willamette Fall Foliage Heritage Cruise.

Jerry Herrmann, president of the Earth Crusaders River Resource Museum, says the locks may never again reopen unless upriver tours and other commercial uses are demonstrated.

Herrmann invited local leaders to join in getting a sense of the “unequaled beauty” of the river on a 52-mile discovery tour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22.

During a meeting in June, leaders said they were fed up with what they see as the Corps’ neglect of the historic, manmade waterway adjacent to the falls between Oregon City and West Linn (“Corps may give up Willamette Locks,” June 27).

Citing public safety concerns in November, the Corps moved the 138-year-old locks into a “non-operational” status, cutting the navigational potential of the Willamette River in half.

“I feel like the Corps has lost their way,” Herrmann said. “Though the locks are closed, we’re not giving up on the upper river.”

Herrmann cites the especially beautiful colors emerging in fall, along with the wildlife and geological sights available year-round. On the tour, ice-age flood experts will talk about how the region was carved out thousands of years ago and show off burial sites for mastodons and saber-tooth tigers. Almost no soil over bare basalt left a “scab land” at Canemah Park in Oregon City.

“When you see maps from the 1850s, you’ll see that the river was in a very different place than it is now, and it did that because of all the soft sediment,” said Rick Thompson, president of the Lower Columbia Chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute.

Priced at $89 per person ($40 for under age 12), the tour includes refreshments, lunch, educational tours and presentations at Champoeg State Heritage Area, on the banks of the Willamette seven miles east of Newberg.

Herrmann and leaders of local businesses will discuss the reasons for agriculture settling in the Willamette Valley as the 60-foot, 10,000-pound boat named “Osprey” passes steamboat landings and other centers of commerce.

Call 503-260-3432 for more information.

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