• Outdoors Outdoors

Locals thrilled after iconic lake reaches 'full pool' levels in time for booming tourist season: 'It's just the matter of building back'

"The marinas have said their boat slips are booked up."

"The marinas have said their boat slips are booked up."

Photo Credit: iStock

Oregon's Detroit Lake is on track to reach full levels for the third consecutive summer, injecting the local economy with an influx of tourists.   

According to the Salem Statesman Journal, the reservoir should hit an adjusted "full pool" level of 1,558.5 feet above sea level, benefiting a region still recovering from the Lionshead Fire that burned nearly 193,000 acres and 422 buildings in 2020.

Detroit Lake, about 50 miles east of Salem, serves as the crux of tourism in Santiam Canyon, drawing anglers, boaters, campers, and other outdoor enthusiasts.

"It means a lot to have the lake full," Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron, a Detroit resident, told the publication. "Not only for businesses that have invested their money up here, but just for locals and people around the state that want to come up, have their boats and who are looking forward to enjoying the sunshine and water. To know we're going to have the fishing derbies and the fireworks, it's really important for Detroit and Marion County."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the lake, decreased the full pool level from 1,563.5 feet in 2021 as a proactive measure to protect against the residual effects of an earthquake. Officials believed that lowering the maximum capacity by 5 feet would reduce the possibility of a natural disaster compromising the Detroit Dam's spillway gates by 10%.

There have been protests from residents wanting higher water levels to extend the tourism season. Hot and dry conditions this summer may negate the above-average mountain snowpack that would otherwise lead to higher reservoir levels. 

Nonetheless, the water levels are promising and will help a community rebuild from the devastating effects of a wildfire. The lake's resurgence is not an isolated event, either, as Lake Sommerville in Texas and Big Bear Lake in California have experienced similar revivals. 

"The forecast is looking really good at Detroit," Corps spokeswoman Kerry Solan told the outlet. "The current and short-term forecast had quite a bit of rain helping us get to that summer [full pool level]."

"I think we've come back pretty solid in terms of the number of people coming up to visit or be on the lake," Cameron added. "The marinas have said their boat slips are booked up. So from that perspective we're doing pretty well. It's just the matter of building back the commercial activity."

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