Willamette Valley

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The Willamette Valley (pronounced /wɨˈlæmɨt/ wi-LAM-it) is the most populated region in the state of Oregon of the United States. Located in the state's northwest, the region is surrounded by tall mountain ranges to the east, west and south and the valley's floor is broad, flat and fertile because of Ice Age conditions. Located centrally inside the large alluvial deposited soils of the Willamette River drainage basin, the valley spreads far from the river banks to both the east and west barrier ranges as the river proceeds northward from its emergence from the southern mountains near Eugene to the confluence of the Williamette with the Columbia River at Portland. The valley's waterways and tributary streams and valleys were of great importance for water transport in the development of the Oregon Territory and young state until well past the arrival of modern roads and highways.

The valley holds several of the state's principal cities and a majority of the the state's population lives within the basin, where one or more massive Ice Age floods left the valley floor thick with flood carried sediments making the valley extremely fertile — a massively productive agricultural area — and as such from the 1820s the valley was widely publicized as a 'promised land' of the 'flowing milk and honey' sort and became, at Oregon City, the destination of choice for the oxen-drawn wagon trains of organized emigrants traveling west on the perilous and rough 1800-2100 miles[1] roadbeds of the Oregon Trail in the 1840s–1880s.

After the reports of the Lewis and Clark Expedition were published about 1807, a small steadily increasing stream of isolated pioneer groups began settling the valley and improving the explored road from the east set up by the fur traders and mountain men as they came. From the 1841 trail opening, when the effort of many over many years finally widened the Fur tradeers mule trails into an improved rough road just capable of carrying the widths of a wagon, settlers charged into the region along the new trail creating new settlements centered about colonial Oregon City as the early capital even before ownership of the region was settled — and so many came, the valley lead the way to achieving statehood in less than 16 years after its ownership was settled on the United States in 1846. A small part of the Willamette Valley ecoregion is in southwestern Washington, around the city of Vancouver — once the site of an early colonial era settlement — Fort Vancouver. The Williamette Valley served with its saw mills, lush productive farms, handy river transport network, nearby timber and mineral resources developed naturally as a cultural and major commercial hub as the Oregon Country became the Oregon Territory and the valley has formed the cultural and political heart of Oregon since and is currently home to 70% of Oregon's population.[2]

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