The State of Oregon has, in fact, two areas bearing the name of Detroit. One is located in Marion County, on Route 22, 51 miles east of Salem, with an elevation of around 1,700 feet above sea level. The other one is located approximately 0.5 miles southeast of the first one… below the water level.
The settlement was originally known as “Coe”. In 1891, Coe had enough residents to necessitate a Post Office. The name, however, was too similar to the town of Cove in Eastern Oregon, so the Post Office was opened under the name of Detroit. The name was chosen because of the significant number of residents from Michigan living in that area. The population of the town amounted to 53 residents in 1907.
Detroit, or the Old Detroit, as the settlement is often referred to today, existed until 1952.
In 1938, the US Congress authorized the 463-foot-high and 1,523-foot-long Detroit Dam to provide flood control, hydroelectricity, and irrigation. After the delay caused by World War II, the Army Corps of
Engineers began clearing over 3,000 acres of land for the dam's reservoir. That included the town of Detroit.
The community had been moved to higher grounds by 1952. The present iconic Cedars Restaurant and Lounge are actually one of the buildings moved to the new location on sleds. After the Dam went operational in 1953, the North Santiam River turned into a 9-mile-long reservoir drowning the Old Detroit. This reservoir is currently known as Detroit Lake. Almost every winter, however, when the water levels in the lake drop, remnants of the old town emerge.
The population of the New Detroit was 202 according to the 2010 census. The economy of the city is heavily dependent on tourism, especially after the area’s timber industry declined in the 1990s.
Nowadays, Detroit Lake and state park are ones of the major recreation resources in Western Oregon offering year-round activities, such as fishing, boating, swimming, water skiing, snow skiing, camping, hiking, snowboarding, hot springs, and many others.
Points of Interest Nearby
- Take the exit 253 for OR-22 Santiam Highway East
- Drive 50 miles on Highway 22.