News Releases

Big Cliff boat ramp to remain closed to vehicle traffic

Published Jan. 10, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers alerts boaters that the Big Cliff Reservoir boat ramp on the North Santiam River will remain permanently closed to vehicular traffic, despite reservoir elevations returning to normal after several years of restrictions.

Walk-in portage of boats is still allowed, and boat trailer access to Detroit Lake and the North Santiam River is available at many points within just a few miles of Big Cliff and Detroit dams.  Visit for options.

The Corps has been rehabilitating spillway gates at many of its dams in the Willamette Valley since 2009, to better ensure they operate properly when water levels in the reservoirs are high and placing significant pressure on the gates.

Rehabilitation of all three gates and associated systems at Big Cliff Dam has taken place over the past two years and was completed last month.

“We lowered the reservoir about 13 feet back in 2010 to reduce pressure on the gates and the potential for their failure.  Now that the gates are fully operational, that restriction has been removed.  That’s good, because releases from Detroit Dam upriver can cause Big Cliff Reservoir’s elevation to fluctuate as much as 24 feet in a matter of hours,” said Willamette Valley Project Operations Manager Erik Petersen.

However, Willamette Valley Project Park Manager Tami Schroeder noted that recreation is unfortunately not an authorized Corps mission at Big Cliff Reservoir, and the “boat ramp” there was not designed or built to be a public recreation facility.

“We receive no recreation funding to operate the ramp for public use.  It’s actually just a dirt road intended as a reservoir access point to facilitate our operations and maintenance,” Schroeder said.  “It doesn’t meet public boat ramp accessibility or safety standards, and a recent review determined it doesn’t qualify for recreation funds to upgrade and maintain it.  At this time, our goal is to maintain safe walk-in access and minimum sanitation services.”

Big Cliff is one of 13 dam and reservoir projects operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Willamette River drainage system.  Each dam contributes to a water resource plan designed to provide flood damage reduction, power generation, irrigation, water quality improvement, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation and navigation on the Willamette River and many of its tributaries.  For more information, visit


Scott Clemans

Release no. 14-002