This was a very interesting article:
Today we enjoy the Willamette River for its beauty, wildlife and recreational value.
Yet long before the railroads and the interstate took over that position, that wide beauty and myriad tributaries were the major highways for the people who lived in the valley.
Since time immemorial, the Kalapuya, Chinook and Clackamas tribes fished the river and transported trade goods and crops. In spring these native peoples gathered camas along the smaller streams that feed into the river and hunted game.
The tribes gathered at Champoeg to trade goods including camas cakes, dried salmon and baskets. Such commerce also provided social benefits when other tribes and extended families met.
For many generations, the rhythm of our river remained unchanged apart occasionally overflowing its banks.
Then in the 19th century, valuable beaver and otter furs lured trappers — both to catch and trade. Around 1812, North West Company sent trappers into the Willamette Valley to set up a trading post named Wallace House. This settlement, near present-day Keizer, facilitated trade and processing of furs caught in the valley.
From there the trappers transported the furs by canoes down the river to their base headquarters at Astoria.
In 1824, the British Hudson Bay Company built Fort Vancouver, operated by John McLaughlin, to be its Northwest headquarters for the fur trade. Many trappers chose not to return to eastern Canada and instead remain with their native wives in the Northwest. McLaughlin set these trappers to grow grain in the fertile valley.
Yearly, these novice farmers grew a surplus of wheat and oats near present-day St. Paul, Gervais and St. Louis. The rich valley soil, the gentle swell and swale of the land known as French Prairie, and the river transportation made farming successful.
Next came Methodist missionaries. Although sent to minister to the native tribes, the Methodists also touted the valley's richness and started the migration of pioneers along the Oregon Trail.
Those who arrived first took land close to the river so that they could easily get their wheat, oats, fruits and vegetable to markets.
Read more: http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20100808/NEWS/8080334/1001/news#ixzz0weU9AjVy