Hike-in Required
ADA accessible
Guided tours
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

A key component of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Willamette Valley Project,* the 463-foot tall Detroit Dam and Big Cliff Dam were finished in 1953, halting the natural flow of the North Santiam River and creating the 9-mile long Detroit Lake.

As a safeguard against the heavy rainfall and snowmelt during the winter and spring months, Detroit Lake’s surface elevation reaches its peak in early summer but eventually drops by as much as 120 feet by autumn.  The drop exposes some of the basin’s history, including building foundations from the original town site of Detroit as well as countless stumps from giant western red cedars that once dominated the banks of the North Santiam and Breitenbush Rivers.

Today, Detroit Lake, along with the Cove Palisades in Central Oregon, reigns as Oregon’s most popular inland boating destination during the dry summer months.  3,500 acres of open waters under the shadow of Mount Jefferson create an ideal playground for motorboats, wake boarders, innertubing and even small sailboats.  Visitors to this summer recreation mecca will enjoy:

  • Camping at any one of the reservoir’s five designated public campgrounds (Detroit Lake State Park, Santiam Flats, Hoover, Cove Creek and Southshore Campground) as well as the campsites located on the northeastern shore of Piety Island.  All of these campgrounds provide boat ramps and day use docks with the exception of Santiam Flats and Piety Island.  Overnight parking for access to Piety Island is permitted at Mongold Day Use Area.  RV hookup sites can be found at Detroit Lake State Park Campground as well as at Kanes Marina.
  • Swimming and picnicking at Mongold Day Use Area, Detroit Lake State Park, Detroit Flats, as well as Upper Arm (Breitenbush River) Day Use Area.
  • Fishing the reservoir’s stocks of rainbow trout, kokanee and Chinook salmon.  Fishing from the lake’s shore during the cooler spring months is common, but as waters warm with summer, the kokanee and Chinook congregate in the deeper water in the center of the reservoir.
  • Hiking up to Dome Rock (10.6 miles total, 3,270-foot elevation gain) or Stahlman Point (4.6 miles total, 1,340-foot elevation gain) for panoramic views of 10,495-foot Mount Jefferson and the rest of the Cascade Range.
  • Boat rentals, long-term moorage, gas, as well as bait and fishing tackle for purchase at Detroit Lake Marina and Kanes Marina, both private facilities.

Note: Due to heavy motorboat traffic and wakes, along with exposed choppy waters, paddling at Detroit Lake is not recommended.

* Authorized by congress via the Flood Control Act of 1936, but delayed by WWII, the Willamette Valley Project encompasses 13 dams and reservoirs throughout the Willamette River watershed.  Originally driven by local business and agricultural interests seeking to protect their investments from common flood damage in the valley, the project further provided a crucial source for hydroelectric power, a municipal water supply, and eased river navigation throughout the region.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

General Day Use Fee


Numerous boat ramp access points. Adjacent campgrounds. Swimming areas.


Drained in the winter. Dominated by motorboats in the summer (not appropriate for paddling).

Pets allowed



Big vistas
ADA accessible



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