A dramatically tight gauntlet of basalt pinching the North Santiam River, side waterfalls, a unique history, numerous swimming holes, and a naturally forested riverbank make Niagara County Park one of Marion County’s most popular recreation destinations.
The park is well-known for being the site of a failed masonry hydroelectric dam during the turn of the 20th century. Centered around the town of Niagara, which once featured a hotel, a tavern, and the country's smallest post office(6 feet by 8 feet, closed in 1934), the dam was supposed to power a straw-to-paper mill, but both projects were scrapped by 1912 due to construction difficulties and constant flooding and erosion.
Today, remnants of the site’s history linger. Ruins of the masonry dam remain on the park's western end below the observation area, and if you head east on the Powder House Trail you will find the trail's namesake. The small wood shed powder house, logically located far from the blasting site, kept explosives dry during dam construction.
Due to past safety issues, the western end of the park adjacent to the main parking area and featuring the narrow basalt chasm and outcroppings is unfortunately closed for any kind of swimming. Swimming in the river toward the central and eastern end of the park is permitted, however, and the area features huge and level slabs of rock that are perfect for soaking up the mid-summer sun.