Low Reservoir Levels Reveal Lost Oregon Town
The Northwest drought of 2015 has produced another rare, but fascinating history find. (Photo courtesy of North Santiam Historical Society)
This year, Detroit Lake near Salem drained down to it's lowest levels in 46 years, in fact the lowest since a dam was built that created the body of water.
But earlier this fall, and into the winter before the record snowfalls began recently, the drought revealed the homestead of an Oregon ghost town.
Detroit, OR, was evacuated and residents moved in 1953 when the lake created a 143 foot layer of water over the old townsite. The town, largely a railroad junction, existed from 1880 until 1952. Not unlike the waterfalls that used to adorn the Columbia not far from Priest Rapids dam North of Tri-Cities, Detroit became a submerged piece of history, until the receding water brought to light old foundations, cobbled streets, and a vintage covered wagon that authorities say was probably at least 100 years old, or older.
Now that snow is melting and more water has run off the mountains, Detroit Lake has recovered about 80 feet of water, leaving the old former town of 200 people back in the dark depths. But during it's brief re-emergence, it gave forest rangers, historical workers and others a chance to see history as it was a long long time ago.
Officials kept the news about the town's resurfacing under wraps until the water raised again because they feared vandals and treasure hunters would scavenge the site for artifacts.