Contact us about Elk Creek:

Phone: 541-878-2255

Email us about Elk Creek

Reservoir elevation, flow and temperature report: 800-472-2434

Elk Creek Project

Elk Creek is a tributary of the Rogue River, about 25 miles northeast of Medford, Ore.

The Elk Creek project was initiated in 1971, the third dam authorized by Congress to be built in the Rogue River Basin.  After years of litigation the project was stopped in 1988, leaving an incomplete dam 83 feet tall, one-third its designed height. Once construction was stopped, plans were developed to restore Elk Creek to a free-flowing creek.  The dam was notched on Aug. 17, 2008, and the Corps diverted Elk Creek into the new channel on Sept. 15, 2008.

The Corps of Engineers is developing a master plan for Elk Creek that will help manage the lands, water and natural resources. The Elk Creek long-term master plan will review current land use conditions and identify future goals and uses for this scenic and environmentally vital area.

Link to PDF version of Lost Creek map

Elk Creek Operations

General: Construction of Elk Creek project began in 1971 with acquisition of project lands, relocation of residents and relocation of some roads and utilities. Elk Creek Dam construction stopped in 1988 at a height of 83 feet, one-third its design height. The project's final demolition shot, notching the dam, was on Aug. 17, 2008. Elk Creek was diverted into the new channel on Sept. 15, 2008.

The project work is now complete.  The Corps, National Marine Fisheries Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Elk Creek Environmental Coordination Task Force members will continue assess channel performance as flows increase and make adjustments as appropriate.

Master Plan: A master plan is a document that guides decision making and management of federal lands. The Corps completed a master plan in 1987, anticipating a completed and fully operational Elk Creek dam and reservoir. However, construction of the dam was halted in 1988 and the unfinished structure was notched in 2008 to allow the creek to flow freely.

The Corps' mission at Elk Creek includes environmental stewardship, ecosystem management and recreation opportunities. The events above resulted in changed needs, operations, recreational opportunities and natural resources in the area, and thus the need for an updated master plan.

During the development of this draft plan, the Corps completed an analysis of recreation needs of the Elk Creek area. The Corps also hosted an interagency workshop in July 2011 and a public outreach meeting in September 2011 to review the planning process and receive input from federal, tribal, state and local agencies and the interested public.

Click here for the Elk Creek Master Plan: 95% Draft 

Elk Creek Waste Removal

The Corps has made several investigations and waste removal efforts at the defunct dam site in the past; however, a 2019 complaint by a former contactor employee to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality shed light on improper disposal by the Obayashi Corporation, the contractor the Corps used during construction. 

Corps and ODEQ personnel subsequently met with the former employee at the site and identified the approximate location of the buried drums. Afterwards, the Corps excavated 26 test pits and found nine to 10 crushed drums, which were leaking fluids. The Corps has formed a project team to continue the CERCLA process, specifically a remedial investigation that would include a risk assessment.

A full site inspection report can be found here.

Elk Creek recreation

Elk Creek is a tributary of the Rogue River, about 25 miles northeast of Medford, Ore. Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing, hiking, biking and hunting in the nine-plus miles of open lands that are Elk Creek. There are no developed recreation facilities at Elk Creek and the area is closed to motorized vehicles. 

Visitors can use the old county road to relax near deep pools, hike through grass fields, or sit under a giant Ponderosa and watch for the variety of wildlife common to Elk Creek.

Operating hours: Dawn to dusk

Hunting: Portions of the Elk Creek Project are open to hunting, as regulated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. For information on hunting in this area, please visit the Dixon Unit 22 Web page.