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Are You Gonna Swim In That?

Just how safe is the Willamette?

Ask the average Oregonian to drink a glass of Willamette River water and the response is likely to be… well, less than enthusiastic. Yet, for some cities along the Willamette, the river has provided an excellent water source for the past few years. And over 200 local swimmers will brave the waters next weekend as part of the second annual Portland Triathlon, which this year will be part of the inaugural Riverfest 2008. This week also marks the eighth annual Paddle Oregon trip up the Willamette, with over 100 participants.

Of course, the Willamette River is still not entirely in the clear. The Portland harbor has a whole mess of EPA Superfund sites, and heavy rainfall — like we’ve had this week — can cause sewage to overflow into the river, leading to swim advisories.

So just how safe — for swimming, for angling, for boating, for drinking — is the Willamette? Do you do you any those activities? Is the river making a comeback? What solutions are available for its future health?

When you hear “Willamette,” what comes to mind?


Photo credit: yuichir0 / Flickr / Creative Commons

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