Quick Facts About the North Santiam River

Quick Facts About the North Santiam River

North Santiam River at Niagara

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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