Detroit Dam

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Detroit Dam
Detroit Dam (2019).jpg
Detroit Dam on the North Santiam River
Detroit Dam is located in Oregon
Detroit Dam
Location of Detroit Dam in Oregon
CountryUnited States
LocationDetroit, Linn County/Marion County, Oregon
Coordinates44°43′15.44″N 122°14′59.27″W / 44.7209556°N 122.2497972°W / 44.7209556; -122.2497972Coordinates: 44°43′15.44″N 122°14′59.27″W / 44.7209556°N 122.2497972°W / 44.7209556; -122.2497972
PurposeFlood control, power, irrigation
Construction began1949
Opening date1953; 68 years ago (1953)
Construction cost$13,615,000 (1953 est.)[1] equiv. to $132 million today[2]
Owner(s)U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Dam and spillways
Type of damConcrete gravity
ImpoundsNorth Santiam River
Height463 ft (141 m)
Length1,523.5 ft (464.4 m)
Elevation at crest1,580 ft (480 m)
CreatesDetroit Lake
Total capacity455,000 acre⋅ft (561,000,000 m3)
Active capacity321,000 acre-feet (396,000,000 m3)
Catchment area437 sq mi (1,130 km2)
Surface area3,500 acres (14 km2)
Maximum length9 mi (14 km)
Normal elevation1,569 ft (478 m) (full)
Commission date1953
Turbines2 x 100 MW Francis-type[3]
Installed capacity100 MW

Detroit Dam is a gravity dam on the North Santiam River between Linn County and Marion County, Oregon. It is located in the Cascades, about 5 mi (8.0 km) west of the city of Detroit. It was constructed between 1949 and 1953 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The dam created 400-foot (120 m) deep Detroit Lake, more than 9 miles (14 km) long with 32 miles (51 km) of shoreline.[4][5][6]

It is one of the dams authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1938.[7] Construction was delayed largely due to World War II. The dam, dedicated on June 10, 1953,[8] was authorized for the purposes of flood control, power generation, navigation, and irrigation. Other uses are fishery, water quality, and recreation. It was built in concert with the Big Cliff Dam downstream.[1]

In 2021, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that this dam was at risk of failing in a large earthquake in the Cascadia subduction zone, which would result in a "potentially catastrophic flood", which could potentially affect Oregon's state capital, Salem, located downstream.[9] For this reason, the level of the reservoir was lowered by five feet, to reduce the stress on the concrete structure.[10]


  • Drainage area: 437 mi² (1,132 km²)
  • Maximum inflow: 63,200 ft³/s (1,790 m³/s) 1909
  • Lake Elevation
    • Maximum pool: 1,574 ft (480 m)
    • Full pool: 1,569 ft (478 m)
    • Minimum flood control pool: 1,450 ft (442 m)
  • Usable storage (1,425.0 to 1,563.5 ft) = 321,000 acre-feet (396,000,000 m3)
  • Powerhouse
    • Number of units: 2
    • Nameplate capacity: 100 MW
    • Overload capacity: 115 MW
    • Hydraulic capacity: 5,340 ft³/s (151 m³/s)


  1. ^ a b Bob Reinhardt (June 10, 2019). "Detroit Dam". Oregon Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2011-06-10.
  2. ^ 1634 to 1699: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy ofthe United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700-1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How much is that in real money?: a historical price index for use as a deflator of money values in the economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  3. ^ JP Duncan, TJ Carlson (May 2011). "Characterization of Fish Passage Conditions through a Francis Turbine, Spillway, and Regulating Outlet at Detroit Dam, Oregon, Using Sensor Fish, 2009" (PDF). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  4. ^ "Detroit Dam". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2006-05-03.
  5. ^ "The Detroit and Big Cliff Dams". North Santiam Water Council. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  6. ^ "Building Strong® at Detroit Dam and Reservoir". U.S. Army Corps or Engineers. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  7. ^ United States. Army. Corps of Engineers. Civil Works Directorate (1976). Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers on Civil Works Activities. p. 37-29. Retrieved May 6, 2020. ... for construction under general authorization Willamette River Basin in 1938 Flood Act. 1948 Flood Control Act modified project to provide for installation of power generating facilities including construction of a reregulating dam ...
  8. ^ "Detroit". North Santiam Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 2011-06-10.
  9. ^ Selsky, Andrew (2021-03-17). "Oregon dam at risk of failing in large earthquake, officials say". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2021-03-17.
  10. ^ Urness, Zach. "Detroit Dam earthquake concern to bring lower summer water levels in reservoir". Statesman Journal. Retrieved 2021-03-17.

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