Santiam Canyon

Canyon History

Oregon Pacific Railroad

The Oregon Pacific Railroad was an attempt to build a trans-Oregon railroad that would go from the from Yaquina Bay on the Oregon Coast to Corvallis in the Willamette Valley then across the Santiam Pass in the Cascade Mountain Range and eventually ending up in Idaho.  The construction of the railroad was headed up by Colonel Thomas Egenton Hogg, a civil war veteran of the Confederatecy, who migrated to Oregon in the early 1870s.  He had been sentenced to life for wars crimes but somehow escape his full sentence and was after just two years in prison.  To this day, it is known why he was released from prison.  It was a passion and a personal goal of Cononel Hogg to built the railroad.  The construction began in the early 1900s and progress had made its way from Albany into the Santiam Canyon along the North Santiam River to the small town of Idanha, where problems and disputes with contractors and unpaid laborers broke out.  By then the year was 1890, and aside from the squabbling, the project had gone bankrupt (Mauldin, Frank).  In a final desperate effort to claim the Santiam Pass for his railroad, he laid rails over Santiam Pass near Hogg Rock and pulled a box car back and forth on them to lay a claim to rail service there in 1890 (  By 1895, an enterprising businessman by the name of A.B. Hammond bought the project for $100,000.  Using financial resources gained in Montana, Hammond in 1899 purchused a large lumber mill in what is now the town of Mill City.  Hammond Lumber Company and Hammond’s railroads made it possible to log, cut, and transport 400 yr old Douglas firs to markets.  For the first time, the cutting of massive ancient forests was now possible as a business enterprise.  By 1926 over 200,000 linear feet of logs up to 6 ft in diameter were being cut every and transported every day (Mauldin, Frank). 

The trackage east of Mill City was abandoned when Detroit Dam and Big Cliff Dam were built in 1950 and still exist today.

Detroit Dam

Bob Heims, US Army Corps of Engineers: taken on July 11, 1990

Detroit Dam was completed in 1953 by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers on the North Santiam River in the Cascades. The dam creates 400 foot deep reservoir, Detroit Lake, which is more than 9 miles long and has 32 miles of shoreline.

The dam was authorized for the purposes of flood control, power generation, navigation, and irrigation. Other uses are fishing and fish rehabilitation, water management, and recreation.  Fishing is allowed from the dam and lake is a popular fishing and recreational area (

Big Cliff Dam

Bob Heims, US Army Corps of Engineers: taken on July 11, 1990

Logging: Present Day

Northwest Forest Plan (1994)

The Northwest Forest Plan covers 24.5 million acres in Oregon, Washington, and northern California that are managed by a variety of Federal agencies. The green area on the graphic tillustrates the general area affected by the plan.

The Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) is a series of Federal policies and guidelines governing land use on Federal lands in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, over a large area ranging from Northern California to western Washington. The NWFP was adopted in 1994 by the Clinton administration as the outcome of a series of studies and hearings that began in 1993 (

A comprehensive NWFP was initiated to end the impasse over management of Federal forest lands in the Pacific Northwest within the range of the Northern spotted owl. With the signing of the Northwest Forest Plan Record of Decision in 1994, a framework and system of Standards and Guidelines were established, using a new ecosystem approach to address resource management. To support this framework, Federal agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding which established and maintains an interagency framework to achieve two distinct goals:

  • Cooperative planning, improved decision making, and coordinated implementation of the forest ecosystem management component of the NWFP on Federal lands within the range of the northern spotted owl.
  • Improved coordination and collaboration with State, Tribal, and local governments as they seek to implement management approaches that support or complement the goals of the NWFP.

The NWFP was originally drafted with the intent of protecting critical habitat for the northern spotted owl, though the plan came to include much broader habitat protection goals (

The plan provided for five major goals:

  1. Never forget human and economic dimensions of the issues;
  2. Protect the long-term health of forests, wildlife, and waterways;
  3. Focus on scientifically sound, ecologically credible, and legally responsible strategies and implementation;
  4. Produce a predictable and sustainable level of timber sales and nontimber resources; and
  5. Ensure that Federal agencies work together.


The federal lands falling under the purview of the NWFP are predominantly National Forests, however Bureau of Land Management lands, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and military bases are also covered by the Plan.

The NWFP is highly controversial in that it called for strongly decreased timber yields within National Forests, a policy that has been blamed by some for large-scale job losses in timber-dependent communities in the Pacific Northwest (

Cities throughout the Canyon rely on timber as a resource and the NWFP had some effect on the community.

Healthy Forest Inititative

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program is based on the premise that responsible environmental behavior and sound business decisions can co-exist. SFI program participants practice sustainable forestry on all the lands they manage. They also influence millions of additional acres through the training of loggers and foresters in best management practices and landowner outreach programs. This unique commitment to sustainable forestry recognizes that all forest landowners, not just SFI program participants, play a critical role in ensuring the long-term health and sustainability of our forests (<;).


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