For more than 150 miles, from south of Eugene to the Columbia River at Portland, the Willamette River (pronounced "wih-lam-it") flows between Oregon's two major mountain ranges. Tempered by cool moist air from the Pacific Ocean, yet protected from winter winds by the Cascade Range to the east, the Willamette Valley enjoys a mild climate that belies its northerly latitudes. It was because of this relatively benign climate and the valley's rich soils that the region's first settlers chose to put down roots here. Today the valley is home to Oregon's largest cities, its most productive farmlands, the state capital, and the state's two major universities.
Despite the many hardships, families were willing to walk 2,000 miles across the continent for a chance at starting a new life in the Willamette Valley. The valley very quickly became the breadbasket of the Oregon country, and today it still produces an agricultural bounty unequaled in its diversity. Throughout the year, you can sample the produce of this region at farms, produce stands, and wineries. In spring, commercial fields of tulips and irises paint the landscape with bold swaths of color. In summer, farm stands pop up near almost every town, and many farms will let you pick your own strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, apples, cherries, and plums. In autumn you can sample the filbert and walnut harvest, and at any time of year, you can do a bit of wine tasting at dozens of wineries.
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