Quick Facts About the North Santiam River

North Santiam River at Niagara

The waters of the North San­tiam begin their jour­ney on the snowy slopes of Mount Jef­fer­son. Nearly ninety miles later they join the South San­tiam. Along its jour­ney the river flows past for­est and farm, field and city. Its flow is inter­rupted by high wall dams and and diverted for irri­ga­tion, munic­i­pal use and even into Mill Creek for aes­thetic purposes.

  • The river drains a land area of about 766 square miles.
  • And flows into the Willamette River just south of the city of Salem.
  •  The North San­tiam serves as the bound­ary between Linn and Mar­ion counties.

The upper reaches of the river mostly are sur­rounded by steep forest­lands where clearcut­ting and for­est fires have affected many hun­dreds of acres in past decades.  The lower North San­tiam River flows through flat to gen­tly rolling agri­cul­tural areas.  Typ­i­cally, the low­lands around the river are formed of sed­i­ment deposited by the river over the centuries.


The water flow­ing in the North San­tiam is an impor­tant resource for many users and pur­poses.  For exam­ple, the river is impounded by Detroit Dam to form Detroit Lake. Together with the High Cliff Dam Detroit Dam pro­vides flood con­trol, power gen­er­a­tion, and recre­ation.
Accord­ing to the Ore­gon water Resource Depart­ment water is taken out of the river for indus­trial, irri­ga­tion and munic­i­pal use:

  • more than 1000 water claims for crop irri­ga­tion includ­ing the Upper and Lower Ben­nett Dams and the water diver­sion canals near the city of Stayton
  • water source for 170,000 City of Salem customers
  • munic­i­pal water for the City of Albany
  • 18 addi­tional com­mu­nity and other pub­lic water systems


Most of the land in the water­shed, nearly 75 per­cent, is owned by the pub­lic. These lands mostly lie in the upper reaches of the basin and are man­aged by dif­fer­ent state and fed­eral agen­cies, including

  • Willamette National For­est, man­aged by the USDA For­est Service,
  • Bureau of Land Man­age­ment lands, and
  • High Cliff and Detroit dams which are man­aged by the Army Corps of Engineers.
  • San­tiam State For­est is man­aged by the Ore­gon Depart­ment of Forestry.
  • Sev­eral smaller parks and recre­ation areas are man­aged by the Ore­gon Parks and Recre­ation Depart­ment and the counties.

The pri­vate lands in the water­shed are used for tim­ber pro­duc­tion, agri­cul­ture, recre­ation, rural res­i­den­tial and urban areas.


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