Detroit Lake Recreation Area

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

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, crystal-clear waters of the Santiam and Breitenbush Rivers, and numerous 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, paddleboarding, picnicking, and sunbathing.

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 city of Detroit was built one-half mile northwest of the previous location.

When the reservoir is full, it has an extended shape supported by a water flow from 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. The shoreline can reach 32 miles in length during high water .

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 floods, generate hydroelectric power, store water, enable irrigation, and provide recreational opportunities.

Water Activities

During the 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 popular water activities include boating, water skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking, paddleboarding, and swimming.

There are a number of boat ramps on both lakes. 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. There are a number of good swimming spots available along the lake shoreline, rivers and creeks nearby. Some of them can be found at day-use areas or campgrounds listed below.


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

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 completed if we skip a discussion about wild mushrooms. The Willamette National Forest is the excellent location to find edible mushrooms including golden chanterelles, boletes, and suillus.

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 lake's north shore. 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, and 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 and boat ramp

GPS: 44.728663,-122.147368

Upper Arm Day-Use Area

Upper 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, a 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.
Upper Arm Day Use - Breitenbush River
Open: May - October
Services: Toilets, picnic tables, garbage service, and barbecue grills

GPS: 44.747871, -122.142644

Blowout Creek Arm

Blowout Creek SwimmingA great place for water activities, located in the picturesque canyon, is filled with bright emerald water at the southwest arm of the Blowout Creek that enters Detroit Lake.


Detroit Lake State Park

Detroit Lake State Park is a camping destination. You will have access to boat ramps, a 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. A 2.7-mile hiking trail runs the perimeter of the campground. The park is located in close proximity to the Detroit Ranger Station.

Open: Year-round
Services: Flash restrooms, drinking water, showers, two boat moorages, and 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 are located at the southeastern arm of 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 is 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 southeast side of Detroit Lake, the 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 is 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 an 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 and picnic tables. No drinking water
Accommodations: 22 tent sites
Camping reservation: All sites are first-come, first-serve

Adventures Nearby

Directions to Detroit Lake

From I-5,

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

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.