Learn how Willamette Valley reservoir levels may be impacted by court-ordered measures.

Willamette Valley Initiatives Brochure

Learn about the different Willamette Valley System initiatives and how they are related.


The project office is located at the Eugene, Ore. Federal Building,
211 E. 7th St., Ste. 480
Eugene, OR 97401-2773.
Office hours are 7 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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

Email the Willamette Valley Project

The Willamette Valley Project pamphlet

The Willamette Valley Dam System

The Portland District operates 13 dams in the Willamette River basin. Each dam contributes to a water resource management system that provides flood risk management, power generation, water quality improvement, irrigation, fish and wildlife habitat and recreation for the Willamette River and many of its tributaries.

More than 50 years protecting a way of life

The Willamette Valley System comprised of 13 dams, has reached a milestone of protecting people, infrastructure, and a way-of-life for over half a century. Fern Ridge dam was the first dam in the system built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was completed in 1942. The last of the 13 dams built was Blue River Dam in 1969, marking the projects 50-year anniversary in 2019. Each of the 13 dams and reservoirs in the Willamette Valley System has helped the Corps reduce the severity of floods, which saves the region an estimated one billion dollars per year.

Since their completion, the dams have cumulatively prevented more than $25 billion in flood damages to the Willamette Valley. The Willamette River Basin is bounded by the Cascade Mountains on the east and the Coast Range on the west.

Although Corps dams only regulate about 27 percent of the surface area runoff in the Willamette Basin above its confluence with the Columbia River, our efforts help reduce flood damage in the Willamette River Basin, as well the North and South Santiam, McKenzie, Coast Fork, Long Tom and Middle Fork Willamette river tributary basins.  

During the rainy season, potentially disastrous flooding is managed by storing water in the reservoirs behind the dams. During the summer, water levels in the reservoirs are maintained as high as possible to provide for reservoir water-related recreation opportunities.  In the drier summer and fall months when rivers are at low levels, stored water is released from the dams to improve water quality and conditions for fish.  

Nine of the Willamette Valley dams generate hydroelectricity from the power of water passing through the dams. Eight of these facilities are owned and operated by the Corps of Engineers, one is a private facility licensed by Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC).  These dams can provide enough power to service about 300,000 homes (500 mw).

Federal, state and local agencies and many Willamette Valley stakeholders are united in their commitment to protect native fish populations and their habitat. They have been working together for many years, along with private interests, on improvements essential for the successful protection and recovery of these Northwest treasures.  The Corps is a partner in efforts to revitalize our streams and habitats throughout the Willamette Valley.

There are more than 70 developed recreation sites within the Willamette Valley Project. Activities available at each reservoir vary, but may include camping, picnicking, boating, water skiing, fishing, swimming, hunting, hiking, biking, equestrian use and wildlife viewing.

Rules, policies and related information

Reserving campsites: Search for and reserve available campsites at or by calling 1-877-444-6777. Campsites can be reserved up to 180 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.

Willamette Valley Hunting Guidelines and Maps

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 website. Click 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 $5 launch fee per day, which is valid at any Corps-managed recreation site for day it was purchased.

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 on Corps projects. This includes land with structures such as dams. See Title 36 C.F.R. 327.4 and supporting documentation.

Firearm policy: The current regulation prohibits the possession of firearms unless being used for hunting, at authorized shooting ranges, or if written permission has been received from the District Commander. Please contact the Portland District Public Affairs at 503-808-4510 or

Protect Public Resources: Natural features, rocks and minerals, vegetation, historical or archaeological artifact, and paleontological resources are all a part of our public lands. Collection, excavation, or vandalism of these resources on public lands I prohibited by Federal laws. Enforcement penalties include fines and/or imprisonment.

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, 541-506-8475

John Day Lock and Dam, 541-739-1135

Rogue River Basin Project, 541-878-2255

Willamette Valley Projects, 541-942-5631