Corps confirms localized sediment contamination in Big Cliff Reservoir. Read news release here


Big Cliff hydropower

Generators / total output one 23 mw

Big Cliff project data

Dam length 280ft 85.3m
Height 191ft 58.2m
Elevation (NGVD*) 1,212ft 369m
Lake length 2.8mi 4.5km
*National Geodetic Vertical Datum

Contact Us

General: 541-684-4300
Recreation: 541-942-5631

Big Cliff Dam & Reservoir

Big Cliff Dam is at river mile 58.1 on the North Santiam River, about 45 miles southeast of Salem, Ore. It is a concrete dam with gated spillways and was completed along with Detroit Dam in 1953 at a cost of $62.7 million. Big Cliff Dam has since helped prevent more than $615 million in potential damage from floods by controlling runoff from about 438 square miles of drainage area. Because the North Santiam canyon is rocky, narrow, and steep where Big Cliff Dam was constructed, it is a concrete dam, rather than an earth and rockfill embankment structure, like other Corps dams in the Willamette Valley Project.

Big Cliff Dam is used to regulate power-generating water releases from Detroit Dam, which may cause Big Cliff Lake to fluctuate as much as 24 feet daily. Big Cliff Dam has one generator capable of producing 18 megawatts. Big Cliff's authorized primary purposes are flood risk management, power generation, water quality improvement, irrigation, fish and wildlife habitat and recreation.

Big Cliff recreation

Birding: Big Cliff Dam is located three miles downstream from Detroit Dam, and is a designated stop along the Mt. Jefferson section of the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail. This trail is a self-guided auto tour of nearly 200 prime birding destinations in the Oregon Cascades. Large trees and snags along the shoreline provide roosts for osprey, while hardwood forests around the reservoir provide for neotropical migrant songbirds.

Boat ramp: The boat ramp at Big Cliff Reservoir is permanently closed to vehicle traffic.


Environmental stewardship at Big Cliff Dam

Restoring degraded uplands, wetlands and streams on Corps lands is a central focus of the Willamette Valley Environmental Stewardship program. Recent efforts to improve habitat quality for wildlife on Corps’ lands in these areas center on replacing invasive plants with native trees and shrubs, and restoring hydrology and topography to support native plants and wildlife habitat.

To mitigate impacts of Corps dams on Chinook salmon and winter steelhead within the North Santiam River Basin, the Corps constructed the Marion Forks Fish Hatchery and the Minto Collection Facility. These facilities are operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife with funds provided by the Corps. Additionally, the Corps supports ongoing efforts for the recovery of Oregon chub within the North Santiam River basin.