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Contact us about Dorena:
General: 541-684-4300
Recreation: 541-942-5631

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Dorena pamphlet

Dorena Dam and Reservoir

Dorena Dam and Lake

Project Description
Dorena Dam is located on the Row River six miles upstream of Cottage Grove, Oregon. Dorena Dam is a 145 ft tall, 2,600 ft long earthen embankment dam with an ungated 200 ft long concrete spillway and gated regulating outlets. Dorena Dam is owned, operated, and maintained by the Portland District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).  Construction of the dam was completed in 1949. A privately owned hydropower facility was added to the dam and began operation in 2014. The hydropower facility is regulated by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Dorena Dam is part of a system of 13 multi-purpose dams in the Willamette Valley with the primary purpose of flood risk management and secondary purposes of hydropower, recreation, irrigation, municipal and industrial water supply, fish and wildlife,  and water quality. Collectively, this system of dams is referred to as the Willamette Valley Project.

During the winter months, the Willamette Valley Project reservoirs are maintained at their lowest elevations to allow for the temporary storage of rain and snow melt. When managing high flow events, the outflow from the system of dams is coordinated to reduce peak flows and river stages at downstream locations. In spring, USACE begins to fill the reservoirs, increasing the amount stored for conservation purposes and reducing the amount available for flood risk management.  During summer, stored water is used for recreation on the reservoirs, and some stored water is released in the river downstream to improve water quality, support fish and wildlife habitat, and provide water for irrigation and municipal uses. During dry summer months, flows into the reservoirs are generally less than flows needed to meet minimum flow objectives, causing reservoir levels to drop. In fall, stored water remaining in the reservoir is drawn down to minimum levels in preparation for the flood season.

Dorena Dam is located about 65 miles east of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a megathrust fault along the Oregon Coast. The Cascadia Subduction Zone is capable of producing very large, long duration earthquakes. The last Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake occurred in the year 1700.

Risk Characterization: Low
USACE performs risk assessments as part of an ongoing dam safety program and to assist in the prioritization of investment for aging infrastructure. The risk assessments evaluate the life safety risks associated with the dams to determine if risk reduction actions are needed and, if so, what actions should be taken. USACE completed a routine risk assessment for Dorena Dam in September 2012 that characterizes the risk associated with the dam to be Low. The assessment considered a wide range of hazard scenarios from the most likely to the most extreme and unlikely. The assessment considered several scenarios that could be damaging to the structure and the embankment driven by an earthquake and or by extreme flood events. For all the scenarios considered, the associated risks were found to be low and not to require any short-term measures or long-term modification. 

USACE is confident that the Willamette Valley dams are well-built, well-maintained, and will continue to significantly reduce flood risks for the region. However, the dams cannot eliminate potential for flooding. Even with the presence of the Willamette Valley dams, extreme rainfall and snowmelt events may result in flooding in areas downstream of dams.  Flooding can be caused by high flows resulting from unregulated portions of the watershed and/or high flow that must be passed through the dam outlets and spillways when reservoir storage capacities are exceeded. 

Risk Management Measures
USACE continues to evaluate the condition and risks associated with its dams and will continue to review the risk associated with Dorena Dam in future routine studies. The next routine risk assessment for Dorena Dam is scheduled for the spring of 2022. USACE regularly conducts routine inspections of its dams and Dorena Dam is equipped with instrumentation to monitor dam performance and seismic activity. Post-earthquake procedures are in place to inspect and evaluate earthquake damages and USACE conducts routine dam safety exercises with local Emergency Managers and first responders. Dorena Dam’s Emergency Action Plan (EAP) outlines actions to be taken during an emergency. USACE will update the EAP based on recent risk assessment results and information from updated inundation maps. In addition, USACE will continue and increase its outreach to improve community awareness of flood risks and risks associated with the dam. 

View more details about Dorena Dam at the National Inventory of Dams website.

Dorena recreation

Alcohol ban: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers implemented an alcohol ban at Cottage Grove and Dorena lakes to improve recreation quality, public and employee safety, and resource allocation and protection.

Birding: With more than 2,400 acres, the Dorena Lake project provides habitat for a variety of wildlife and plants. The reservoir is a designated stop along the Big River Loop of the Willamette Valley Birding Trail, a self-guided driving tour that includes 138 birding hot-spots. Visitors can see rare birds like the purple martin, the willow flycatcher and the yellow-breasted chat near Dorena Lake. Osprey and purple martins nest in structures maintained by the Corps.

Day-use parks: Dorena Lake has two day-use parks operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Both parks have no associated fees and are open year-round from dawn to dusk.

Bake Stewart Park is located at the southeast end of the lake where the Row River enters the reservoir. It is a minimally developed day use area with trails, bike racks, vault toilets, and picnic tables. A gravel trail connects the park to the paved Row River Trail managed by Bureau of Land Management.

Harms Park is a minimally developed day-use area which includes a boat ramp, paved parking area, vault toilet, picnic tables and access to the Row River Trail. There is no fee for use of the boat ramp, but ramp access is limited by seasonal water levels. For more information, call the Willamette Valley Project Park Ranger Office at 541-942-5631.

Schwarz Campground
Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has 82 campsites including 6 group sites, paved roads, flush toilets, showers, dump station, campfire rings, picnic tables, gate attendants and children's play area. No hookups available.
Open: mid April - mid Sept
Single Camp Site Fees: $22 per night; 2 vehicles included. No extra vehicles permitted, please plan accordingly.
Double Camp Site Fees: $44 per night; 4 vehicles included. No extra vehicles permitted, please plan accordingly.
Group Camp Site Fees: $150 per night; up to 25 vehicles per group at any one time, up to 15 of which can be camper units.
Schwarz also has a life jacket loaner station available.
Reservations: Go to or call 1-877-444-6777. Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance.

• Baker Bay Park
Operated by Lane County Parks.
Call the Lane County Parks Department in Eugene, OR at 541-682-2000. The Baker Bay concessionaire may be reached at 541-942-7669. Baker Bay also has a life jacket loaner station available.

Hiking: The Row River Trail offers more than five miles of trails bordering Dorena Lake, and is open to hiking, biking and horseback riding. The trail can be accessed near the lake at Dorena Dam, Row Point and Harms Park trailheads. The trail begins in Cottage Grove and continues for 14 miles, with several trailheads providing multiple opportunities for short trips and shuttling options. For more information, call the Bureau of Land Management at 541-683-6600.


Getting around

Dorena Dam map 

Environmental stewardship at Dorena Dam

The Willamette Valley Environmental Stewardship program focuses on restoring degraded uplands, wetlands and streams on Corps lands. Recent efforts include replacing exotic and invasive plants with native trees and shrubs, and restoring hydrology and topography to support native plant communities and wildlife habitat.

The Corps works with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to support resident game and non-game fisheries within the Row River Basin.