US Army Corps of Engineers
Portland District

Lost Lake project data

Dam length 3,750 ft 1,143 m
Height 327 ft 100 m
Elevation (NGVD*) 1,882 ft 570 m
Max. capacity 2 generators 49.2 mw
Lake length 10 mi 16 km
Lake area (full) 3,430 ac 1,389 ha
*National Geodetic Vertical Datum
(Mean Sea Level)

Contact us about Elk Creek:

Phone: 541-878-2255

Email us about Elk Creek

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

Lost Creek Lake is on the Rogue River, about 28 northeast of Medford, Oregon.

Jess Dam and Lost Creek Reservoir

William L. Jess Dam is situated on the main stem of the Rogue River, about 28 miles northeast of Medford, Ore., in a timbered canyon on the Rogue River. The Lost Creek Reservoir and features public access areas, parks, boat ramps and 30 miles of scenic trails.

Jess Dam at Lost Creek is a 327-foot-high rockfill embankment structure with a gated spillway. Jess Dam was the first of three multi-purpose storage projects finished in the Rogue River Basin project. 

Authorized primary purposes include flood risk management, water supply, water quality improvement, fish and wildlife habitat enhancement and recreation.

In 1996, Congress renamed Lost Creek Dam in honor of William L. Jess, a strong advocate for multiple uses of impounded waters and one of the founders of the Rogue Basin Association, established in 1955.

Link to PDF version of Lost Creek map

Jess Dam Operations

Lost Creek / William L. Jess Dam and Reservoir

The William L. Jess Dam and intake structure is a 327-foot-high rockfill embankment structure. Construction began in 1967 and the lake began filling in February 1977. Runoff from a drainage area of 674 square miles pools into Lost Creek Lake. The lake provides 465,000 acre-feet of total storage and has an area of 3,430 acres when full.

A regulating outlet tunnel, power penstock, and intake tower with multi-level intakes are located in the dam's right abutment; a gate-controlled concrete chute spillway is located in the left abutment. The powerhouse's generating capacity of 49,200 kilowatts comes from two 24.6-megawatt generators.

Environmental concerns prompted the Corps to construct an innovative multi-port intake tower, allowing operators regulate the temperatures of water released from the lake. Lost Creek’s intake structure combines lake water from different depths in a mixing chamber before releasing it downstream, regulating the water temperature and improving conditions for fish migration and survival in the Applegate and Rogue rivers. 

The returning fish are collected just below the dam and transported to the Cole M. Rivers Fish Hatchery, located just downstream of William L. Jess Dam on the Rogue River, for spawning. Later, juveniles are released into the Applegate River to maintain the runs.

For the reservoir elevation, flow and temperature report, call 800-472-2434.

Lost Creek and Jess Dam recreation

River’s Edge Park (Corps-operated), just downriver from William L. Jess Dam, is a great place to host a family get-together, summer picnic or birthday party. The park's group pavilion is available by reservation from Memorial Day to Labor Day; each year's reservations are accepted starting Jan. 1. Availability is first-come, first-served; weddings are allowed with a permit. Reserve the group pavilion by calling 541-878-2255 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, or by emailing: dll-cenwp-rogue-rangers@usace.army.mil.

McGregor Park and Visitor Center (Jointly operated in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management) is located on State Highway 62, the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway, near Cole Rivers Fish Hatchery. Dedicated in July 1977, McGregor Park was specifically designed for the convenience of visitors with disabilities. Restrooms and trash service enhance the picnic tables and grills scattered throughout the park. The visitor center displays information about local plants, wildlife, geology, and cultural history, and provides information about recreational opportunities. An interpretive trail is a short walk from the visitor center, with information about local river ecology and all the wildlife, insects, birds and plants that rely on the waterway. For more information, contact the Rogue River Basin Project Office at 541-878-2255 or email dll-cenwp-rogue-rangers@usace.army.mil.

Joseph H. Stewart State Recreation Area (Oregon Parks & Recreation operated) is surrounded by wildlife, large conifer trees and mountains. Hike or bike the 11-mile trail system through the forest with year-round streams and wildlife viewing. Take a swim in cool mountain water, rent a boat from the marina, or troll the 10-mile lake for trout and bass. If you prefer, bring your own boat and water skis. Open from March 1 through Oct. 31. For more information, call the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department's general information line at 800-551-6949.

Life jacket loaner stations: Life jackets are available seasonally (i.e., during summer months) at the Joseph H. Stewart State Park boat ramp and the Takelma Park boat ramp. Life jackets are available on a first come, first serve basis. 

Boating at Lost Creek Lake

Rules, policies and related information

Reserving campsites: Search for and reserve available campsites at Recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777. Campsites can be reserved up to 240 days in advance and group facilities up to 360 days in advance. Note: not all recreation sites take reservations.

Hunting guidelines: All rules and regulations for the public use of Corps lands are described in Title 36, Chapter III, Part 327. The following document provides more detailed information specific to hunting on Corps lands within the Portland District. Hunters should be aware that some of the lands surrounding Corps reservoirs are managed by other County, State, and Federal agencies and different guidelines may apply. Hunters are responsible for recognizing private land boundaries and should not hunt on private land without permission of the landowner.

Information about hunting at Applegate project should be obtained from local U.S. Forest Service offices. Rifle hunting is allowed in designated areas at Elk Creek and Lost Creek reservoir, with restrictions.

Geocaching policy: In general, geocaching can be a fun and appropriate recreational activity at Corps projects, provided the security or missions of the project are not compromised. It provides an opportunity for positive interactions and partnerships with local groups involved in this activity. Monitoring of web sites, communication and participation with these groups can form healthy relationships with benefits to all involved. Working with these groups can prevent problems and promote the Corps as a willing partner. Regulation should be based on common-sense needs of specific projects or areas, with a minimal permitting burden on the recreating public. Read more about the policy here.

Anchor safely: These five steps will help you to anchor safely:

  1. Use anchor lines that are 5-7 times the depth of the water.

    1. Use a float for the anchor line to serve as a buffer and to reduce the risk of getting the anchor line tangled in the propeller.

    2. Lower, do not throw, the anchor to avoid tangles in the line.

    3. Anchor only off the point of the bow. Anchoring off the stern or the side will capsize your boat.

  2. Power upstream of anchor before retrieving it. Maintain position in line with the flow of the current while retrieving anchor. Turning cross-wise to the current increases the risk of capsizing.

  3. Rivers can become turbulent with little or no warning. You are advised to wear a Coast Guard-approved Personal Flotation Device at all times. Also, take precautions against hypothermia. River temperatures can range from 70 degrees in the summer to near freezing during the winter.

  4. River users are reminded that although it is legal to anchor in the channel, it is illegal to block the right-of-way of a vessel that is restricted to using the channel.

  5. Five blasts of the horn signify danger, and you must take action to avoid that danger.

For more tips, visit the Corps of Engineers National Water Safety websiteClick here for a print version of this information.

Fee collection and comparison: Day-use fees, including boat ramp and dump station fees, will be collected while parks are available for camping. No fees are collected during park closure dates. Some boat ramps outside fee campgrounds will charge a $3 launch fee per day, which is valid at any Corps-managed recreation site for day it was purchased.

Some designated swim beaches outside fee campgrounds may charge a use fee of $1 per person over the age of 12 or in a vehicle up to $4. However, if a vehicle has more than 8 passengers over the age of 12, there will be a fee of $1 for each additional individual over the age of 12.

All fees have been set to maintain comparable fee schedules with other federal, state, county and private campgrounds. All fees meet the requirements set in Engineering Publication 1130-2-550. Fee comparability within the same state and district is outlined in Paragraph 9 of EP 1130-2-550.

Seaplanes on Corps lakes: Seaplanes may be operated seven days a week between sunrise and sunset at all Portland District lakes with the exception of Big Cliff, Applegate and Willow Creek lakes. Once on the water seaplanes shall be considered powerboats and must be operated in accordance with marine rules of the road. Seaplanes in the water may taxi to any area of the lake subject to the powerboating restrictions for those lakes. For more information, see: Seaplane operations at Corps of Engineers lakes.

Volunteering: If you're enthusiastic about the outdoors, enjoy meeting new people and want to protect parks, then sign up to be a volunteer! Click here for a listing of current volunteer opportunities at Portland District Park and Corps sites across the country. 

Drone policy: For both safety and security reasons, the operation of aircraft, including drones (formally known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems) may not be operated within 500 feet of operational areas at Corps projects. This includes land with structures such as dams. Click here for the complete District policy memo.

Weather and water levels: The Corps of Engineers, National Weather Service and other agencies cooperatively gather and analyze data for current and projected future reservoir and river level information. Know before you go!

Reservoir and water levels 

Northwest River Forecast Center

National Weather Service

Questions about any guidelines should be directed to:

Bonneville Lock and Dam, 541-374-8344

The Dalles Lock and Dam, 541-506-7857

John Day Lock and Dam, 541-739-1135

Rogue River Basin Project, 541-878-2255

Willamette Valley Projects, 541-942-5631