Detroit Lake Recreation Area

• Detroit Lake  is well known for its scenic beauty
• The lake is extremely popular among water sports enthusiasts

Gerhard Weiss
G. Weiss

If you ask people living in the Salem area about their favorite recreation spots, they will mention Little North Fork Recreation Area, parks along the Santiam River, and certainly Detroit Lake.

Unsurprisingly, each Saturday and Sunday thousands of cars and recreational vehicles take to Oregon Route 22 which connects Salem, Detroit, and Bend. Most vehicles towing boats are aiming to spend their weekend on Detroit Lake.

The Detroit Lake area is well known for its scenic nature including the ancient Willamette National Forest, a picturesque view of a snow-capped Mount Jefferson, and crystal-clear waters of the Santiam River, Breitenbush River and a multitude of cold mountain creeks. Detroit Lake, also known as Detroit Reservoir, attracts outdoor recreation enthusiasts who can find any activity they like, such as fishing, swimming, boating, water skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking, paddle boarding, picnicking, and sunbathing.

Detroir Reservoir Fishing

The lake is located in the western portion of the Cascade Foothills as the midpoint between Salem and Sisters - a town situated at the eastern Cascade Foothills. Detroit Lake got its name after the old town of Detroit which was flooded in 1952 as a result of Detroit Dam and Reservoir construction across the North Santiam River. The new town of Detroit was built one-half mile northwest of the previous location.

When the reservoir is full, it has extended shape supported by water flow from the number of springs and rivers with five major forks - four inflows and one outflow. The North Santiam and Breitenbush Rivers are the biggest two.

Detroit Lake is 9 miles long and shoreline during high water can reach 32 miles in length.

Adjusted to Detroit Lake, Big Cliff Lake is a reservoir impounded by the Big Cliff Dam located 2.7 miles downstream of the Detroit Dam. Operated by the Corps of Engineers, both lakes and reservoirs are working in tandem for the purposes to control flood, generate hydroelectric power, store water, enable irrigation, and provide recreational opportunities.

Water Activities

During summer months Detroit and Big Cliff Lakes are extremely popular among water sports enthusiasts and people who just enjoy picnicking and relaxing on the beach. The water activities popular at the lake includes, but not limited to boating, water skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking, paddle boarding, and swimming.

There are a number of ramps available on both lakes for your boat. If you don’t own the boat, you can rent it at the lake.

Water in the lake warms up quickly during the summer months. Unlike swimming holes of rivers and streams located on the higher elevation, the Detroit Lake water is pretty warm during summer and comfortable for dipping. There are a number of good swimming spots available along the lake shoreline, rivers and creeks nearby. Some of them can be found in the day- use areas or campgrounds listed below.


Fishing season at the lake is an open year-round with support and management of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Every year Detroit Reservoir are stocked with tens of thousands legal-size and larger trophy-size rainbow trout. In addition to trout, you can also catch kokanee, chinook salmon and bullhead catfish.

Colder water is good for trout and kokanee fishing since those species are more active in cold water. Summer is great for trout too since it can survive well at colder waters at the depth of the lake.

You can fish at any spot along the lake - from fishing decks, shore or Detroit Dam.

Mushroom picking

Chanterelle - wild edible mushroomsInformation about Detroit Lake would not be complete if we skip a discussion about wild mushrooms. The Willamette National Forest is the excellent location to find edible mushrooms including golden chanterelles, boletes, suillus, and a variety of other mushrooms.

No permit or fee is required for quantities less than one gallon (Matsutake excluded) in the Willamette National Forest.

Also, issued by the Ranger Districts, a free-use permit authorizes a free collection of 2 gallons of mushrooms per day during any 10 days a year. This permit is valid during the mushroom picking season (January 1st through December 31st). The Detroit Ranger Station is located 1.5 miles west of the city of Detroit just off Highway 22.

Day Use Areas and Campgrounds

Mongold Day-Use Area

Mongold Day-Use Area is a fee state park located on the North shore of the lake. There is a public boat ramp, picnic sites in shade trees, spots for fishing, drinking water source, and restrooms. Overnight parking is allowed only for those who camp on Piety Island.

Open: Year-round
Services: Flush restrooms, picnic tables, boat ramp

GPS: 44.710111, -122.196667

Detroit Flats Day-Use Area

Detroit Flats Day-Use Area is located within the town at the eastern edge of the lake. This is a free park with picnic sites, swimming and fishing spots.

Open: Year-round
Services: Picnic tables, boat ramp

GPS: 44.728663,-122.147368

Upper Arm Day-Use Area

Upper Arm Day UseUpper Arm Day-Use Area is situated along the Breitenbush River near the spot where it enters Detroit Lake. A stretch of the Breitenbush River at this spot is more calm, wide and deep.

The park is equipped with picnic tables including grills, fishing pier, and toilets. Upper Arm is supervised by the US Forest Service and there is a fee associated with its use. To get to this area, follow 0.8 miles north from the intersection of OR-22 and OR-46.

Open: May - October
Services: Toilets, picnic tables, garbage service, barbecue grills

GPS: 44.747871, -122.142644

Blowout Creek Arm

Blowout Creek Swimming

A great place for water activities is located at the picturesque canyon filled with bright emerald water at the southwest arm of the Blowout Creek entering Detroit Lake. This place is popular among owners of small and big boats, swimmers as well as adrenaline-addicted cliff jumping and rope swinging enthusiasts.

Learn More...

Detroit Lake State Recreation Area

Detroit Lake State Park is a camping location. You will have access to boat ramps, fishing deck, areas for swimming, a playground, basketball and volleyball courts. There is a visitor center where you can also buy ice, drinks, firewood, and souvenirs. There is a 2.7-mile hiking trail runs the perimeter of the campground. Park is located in close proximity to Detroit Ranger Station.

Open: Year-round
Services: Flash restrooms, drinking water, showers, two boat moorages, fishing dock
Accommodations: 107 full-hookup sites, 68 electrical sites with water, 96 tent sites
Camping reservation: 800-452-5687

GPS: 44.729037, -122.175495

Cove Creek Campground

The largest campground on Detroit lake, Cove Creek is a quiet location on the southeast side of the reservoir with a fishing dock. The quarter-mile Stahlman Point Trail begins from the campground entrance. Day-use is allowed.

Open: May - September
Services: Flash restrooms, drinking water, coin-operated showers, a dock for launching, loading and unloading, (no mooring allowed)
Accommodations: 63 campsites and 70 person campground
Camping reservation:

GPS: 44.713666, -122.157784

Hoover Campground and Group Campsite

Hoover Campground and Group Campsite is located on the southeastern arm of the Detroit lake. This spot offers accessible viewing and fishing platform. The Hoover interpretive trail, Stahlman Point Trail, and others are available for hiking.

Open: May - September
Services: Flash restrooms, vault toilets, drinking water, a dock for launching, loading and unloading, (no mooring allowed)
Accommodations: 35 standard sites, with 21 reservable, and 1 reservable group site
Camping reservation:

GPS: 44.714219, -122.123879

South Shore Campground

Situated on the the the southeast side of Detroit Lake, 30-site South Shore Campground offers boating, fishing, and hiking opportunities. There is an easy trail to the Blowout Creek swimming area. Day-use is allowed.

Open: May - September
Services: Vault toilet, drinking water, coin-operated showers, a dock for launching, loading and unloading, (no mooring allowed)
Accommodations: 5 tent double and 25 single sites
Camping reservation:

GPS: 44.706734, -122.173521

Piety Knob Island Campground

Piety Knob Island Campground is located on island in the middle of Detroit Lake with good boat-in access. Travel by boat from any day-use areas.

Open: Year-round
Services: Vault toilets, picnic tables, no drinking water
Accommodations: 22 tent sites
Camping reservation: All sites are first come first serve

Directions to Detroit Lake

From I-5,

  • Take the exit 253 for OR-22 Santiam Highway East
  • Follow 41 miles on Highway OR-22 to Detroit Lake.

Points of Interest Nearby

1 Comment

  1. Author

    Detroit Flats Day-Use Area is temporarily closed for constructions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.