Detroit Lake

17 08 2013

IMG_2010Detroit Lake, about 50 miles east of Salem in Oregon, sits in the North Santiam Canyon in the Willamette National Forest of the Cascade Mountain Range. Flanked by fir-covered mountains, Detroit Lake offers an ideal view of Mt. Jefferson. As a federally designated lake for recreation, its popularity marked it as a hot spot for outdoor activities such as swimming, boating, canoeing, water skiing, jet skiing, wakeboarding, fishing, and biscuit riding especially for my family. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks Detroit Lake in the summer with a variety of fish including trout, salmon, and kokanee. Native bullhead catfish live in the lake throughout the year, and all-season fishing is permitted in still water away from rivers and streams.

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Detroit Lake is nine miles long with 32 miles of shoreline at capacity. Unlike natural rivers and lakes in the Pacific Northwest that reach capacity during the rainy season (yes, we do get a glorious non-rainy season despite our reputation), Detroit Lake is man-made, therefore, gets filled for summer. The lake floats over the historical Oregon Pacific Railroad that lacked funding and closed in the 1950s. The U.S. Corp of Engineers removed the track, built Detroit Dam, erected the Detroit and Big Cliff Reservoirs, and created Detroit Lake as part of the Willamette Valley Projects. Detroit Lake’s original but ongoing function as flood control, power generation, irrigation, water supply and conservation for nearby cities led to its discovery as a recreational gem.

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Mongold State Park and Detroit Lake State Park, managed IMG_9004by Oregon Parks and Recreation, are open year-round. Mongold State Park offers a winter boat ramp for launching when other ramps close for the season and rest on dry ground when the lake is drained. Detroit Lake Campground provides two designated but unguarded swim areas, a visitor center, a small store, playgrounds, basketball and volleyball courts, picnic grounds, evening programs, hiking, fishing docks, boat ramps and slips, lake access, and bathrooms with showers. Campsites can include on-site water, electrical hookup, and specified sites for those with disabilities, RVs, and tents. Leashed pets are welcome.

IMG_9001Rates vary depending on the season and the year, so for updated information call (503) 854-3346 or (503) 551-6949. To make reservations, call (1-800) 452-5687. Also check out the website at You’ll find a comprehensive calendar of events for the year. Detroit Lake is located off Highway 22 near Detroit, Oregon. Detroit’s population of a few hundred relies on tourism for its economy. Detroit has a marina, stores, restaurants, hotels, cabins, vacation rentals, a lodge, and nearby Bed & Breakfasts. Whether you visit for the day or overnight, you will have a great time at Detroit Lake.

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