The Portland area is getting a new natural wonder.

For a century and a half, Willamette Falls—the second-most powerful waterfall in the country—was hidden behind a phalanx of hydropowered industrial buildings. It's as if you found a Monet and decided to hang it behind your refrigerator.

"I still meet people who never realized the falls existed," says Brian Moore, project manager of the Willamette Falls Legacy Project.

That's about to change.

With the closure of the Blue Heron paper mill in 2011, Clackamas County officials saw an opportunity to finally open the falls to public access. Within the next few years, the area will transform into a new commercial zone running along the edge of the Willamette River in downtown Oregon City. Groundbreaking is set for 2018.

Willamette Falls Legacy Project rendering.
Willamette Falls Legacy Project rendering.

Details—such as what retailers will occupy the riverwalk, or whether kayakers and boaters will be allowed to access the falls—are still being ironed out, but suffice to say, the Portland area is about to gain a gorgeous new attraction it never knew it had.

"Willamette Falls will become an iconic destination on par with Vista House, the Gorge and Multnomah Falls," Moore says.

Don't listen to TLC. Go ahead and chase these waterfalls.

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