Enjoy back-road cruise to Detroit Lake and beyond

There are plenty of boating options at Detroit Lake, and the fishing offers plenty of variety.LINDA SEXTON/PHOTO

Another beautiful road trip through the back roads of Linn and Marion County to Detroit Lake/reservoir. 

Detroit Lake is formed by Detroit Reservoir Dam. The lake has a shoreline of 32-plus miles. It is in sheer forest covered canyon walls – a beautiful setting in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. The lake is formed by two rivers, the North Santiam and the Breitenbush River. 

Detroit Lake campgrounds are the largest of all campgrounds on the lake itself. They are beautifully kept, clean restrooms, camping spots and many hiking trails that lead from the campgrounds up and down the shoreline and to the north into the mountains. There are several large boat marinas on the lake, and the arm of the lake that is formed by the mouth of the Breitenbush River. The lake backs water up for about 5 miles on this river. At the mouth is a beautiful marina, boats are available by the hour, half day, and day and night, and there are many sizes – canoes, power boats, sailboats, overnight boats. 

As you go upriver, there are many campgrounds, until you reach an elevation that the lake level no longer backs water. These are beautiful sites. If you continue up the road for several miles, you come to Breitenbush Hot Springs.

The campgrounds are quite safe in today’s virus world, as they are spread apart. 

Many fishermen take advantage of the lake and its tributaries. The lake is stocked with Chinook salmon, rainbow trout, large and small-mouth bass.

Silver Falls State Park is about 15-20 miles from Detroit Lake. This is a day trip from Cottage Grove, if you do not spend time hiking. I would recommend that it be a two-day trip, because Silver Falls State Park is at least a four-hour hiking and recreation adventure. You actually walk down a trail to the bottom of the grotto and into a cave behind the falls, and back up the far side.

There are 10 other falls in the park and all are connected by trail. You can do this in a couple of hours, but most people spend about four hours, taking time to enjoy the scenery. There are ample restrooms, picnic areas, playgrounds, and parking. 

Seventeen miles beyond the park is the 80-acre Oregon Gardens, a resort park with massive gardens, along with cabin rentals. You can either walk through the gardens or ride a tour bus at a nominal cost.

This is true backcountry tourism. This last drive, we started on Highway 228, Brownsville and Sweet Home, taking back roads up through Waterloo and Lebanon and Scio, picking up Highway 226, Lyons, Gates, and Highway 22 into Detroit Lake.

Beautiful rolling farmland. We went through hayfields that had just been cut – hundreds of acres. The countryside is dotted with hazelnut trees, orchards, vineyards, and beautiful farmland. This is all east of Interstate 5. Mile after mile of well-groomed fields and beautiful scenery. 



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