Rendering of the new Willamette River Bridge

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Restoring the Whilamut Natural Area

From ODOT- Long before it was named the Whilamut Natural Area, the Kalapuya tribe inhabited this 70-acre site on the north bank of the Willamette River west of Interstate 5. The Kalapuya gathered food, traveled on the river and hunted local game. Later the site served as farmland, supplied sand and gravel for the original I-5 bridge and was used as a Lane County landfill from 1964 to 1974.
Transformation of the site continues today. The City of Eugene and volunteers serving on the Citizen Planning Committee oversee efforts to restore the area to its natural state. Removal of non-native plant species such as blackberries, Scotch broom and tall fescue allows native species to survive and thrive. Planting of native grasses and wildflowers creates new upland prairies for wildlife habitat. Western meadowlark, vesper sparrow, woodpeckers, lizards, gopher snakes, frogs and turtles are expected to return and thrive.
A new forest canopy of black cottonwood and Oregon ash will protect plants needing shade while providing wildlife habitat and a cool zone along the river for juvenile Chinook salmon.
As the restoration proceeds, bicyclists, walkers and runners use the variety of hard and soft paths to travel east, west, north and south. Some stop to enjoy the river or just sit and experience the natural surroundings.
Future generations will appreciate the opportunity to see cycles of nature and flourishing native plants and wildlife.


  1. Why don't they spell it "Willamette"?

  2. The reason the bridge name is spelled Whilamut Passage is to honor the heritage of the first people who named it, the Kalapuya tribe. The Kalapuya language is fast disappearing because there are fewer people who speak it today. The Euro-centric spelling of Willamette originated with the early French trappers and mountain men who recorded the name using the spelling of their native language. To honor the original people who first named the river thousands of years ago, a citizen committee and The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde suggested using the original phonetic spelling closest in sound to the spoken Kalapuya language.