Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A short note on Willamette Valley

The Willamette Valley is the region in northwest Oregon in the United States that contains the Willamette River as it proceeds northward from its emergence from mountains next to Eugene to its meeting with the Columbia River. One of the majority productive agricultural areas of the world, the valley was the destination of option for the emigrants on the Oregon Trail in the 1840s. It has formed the cultural and the political heart of Oregon since the days of the Oregon Territory, and is home to almost 70% of Oregon's population.

The valley may perhaps be defined as the watershed of the Willamette, bounded on the west by the Coast Ranges, and on the east by the Cascade Range. It is bounded on the south by the Calapooya Mountains, which break up the headwaters of the Willamette from the Umpqua River valley. As of the differing cultural and political interests, the Portland metropolitan area, with the Tualatin River valley, is often disinclined in the local use of the term. The Cities always considered part of the Willamette Valley are Eugene, Corvallis, Albany, and the Salem.

The agricultural richness of the valley is considered to be in no small measure an end result of the Missoula Floods, which inundated the valley about forty times between 15,000 and 13,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. The floods were caused by the periodic rupturing of the ice dam of Glacial Lake Missoula, the waters of which swept down the Columbia and are flooded the Willamette Valley as far south as Eugene. The floodwaters passed rich volcanic and glacial soil from Eastern Washington, which was deposited across the valley floor when the waters subsided.

In current decades, the valley has also become a most important wine producer, with multiple American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) of its own. Additionally, with a cooler climate than California, the softly rolling hills surrounding the Willamette are home to some of the great pinot noir in the New World, with a high-quality pinot Gris.

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