Beavers are one of the main things the state of Oregon is famous for. In fact, the most popular nickname for Oregon is "the Beaver State." The beaver is also the official state animal. I've always heard about Oregon's natural beauty, so I was somewhat stunned to learn that one of the dirtiest rivers is in Oregon.

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The Willamette River is one of 15 most polluted rivers in the US.

According to, river pollution is a HUGE, ongoing issue for the country. Deteriorating water quality is a problem. Contaminated water can harbor bacteria. Drinking water containing chemical waste like pesticides and heavy metals can cause serious health issues, if ingested.

The Willamette River is a major tributary of the Columbia River.


According to Wikipedia, the Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. The Willamette River flows between the Oregon Coast Range and the Cascade Range. The Willamette Valley includes Salem and Portland, which is the mouth of the Willamette at the Columbia River.

Pollution of the Willamette River has been a concern since 1869.

Since as early as 1869, with the introduction of a federally funded "snag puller" designed to keep the waterway clear, human habitation has affected the ecology of the river basin. Domestic and industrial waste from the cities built up along the river "essentially [turned] the main-stem river into an open sewer by the 1920s."

In 1966 Governor Tom McCall ordered quality tests on the river. He learned that it was heavily polluted in Portland. He discouraged tourism in Oregon and made it harder for companies to qualify for a permit to operate near the river. Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park was opened in 1978 and is located in downtown Portland along the Willamette River.

You can learn more about preventing river pollution, causes, and which rivers are the most polluted in the US, here.

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