Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Geologic features of dam sites in the Nehalem, Rogue, and Willamette River basins, Oregon, 1935-37

January 1, 1947

The present report comprises brief descriptions of geologic features at 19 potential dam sites in the Nehalem, Rogue, and Willamette River basins in western Oregon. The topography of these site and of the corresponding reservoir site was mapped in 1934-36 under an allocation of funds, by the Public Works Administration for river-utilization surveys by the Conservation Branch of the United States Geological Survey. The field program in Oregon has been under the immediate charge of R. O. Helland.

The 19 dam sites are distributed as follows: three on the Nehalem River, on the west or Pacific slope of the Oregon Coast range; four on Little Butte Creek and two on Evans Creek, tributaries of the Rogue River in the eastern part of the Klamath Mountains; four on the South and Middle Santiam Rivers, tributaries of the Willamette River from the west slope of the Cascade mountains; and six on tributaries of the Willamette River from the east slope of the Coast Range.

Except in the Evans Creek basin, all the rocks in the districts that were studied are of comparatively late geological age. They include volcanic rocks, crystalline rocks of several types, marine and nonmarine sedimentary rocks, and recent stream deposits.

The study of geologic features has sought to estimate the bearing power and water-tightness of the rocks at each dam site, also to place rather broad limits on the type of dam for which the respective sites seem best suited. It was not considered necessary to study the corresponding reservoir sites in detail for excessive leakage appears to be unlikely. Except at three of the four site in the Santiam River basin, no test pits have been dug nor exploratory holes drilled, so that geologic features have been interpreted wholly from natural outcrops and from highway and railroad cuts. Because these outcrops and cuts are few, many problems related to the construction and maintenance of dams can not be answered at the this time and all critical features of the sites should be thoroughly explored by test pits and drilled holes before any dam is designed. This applied especially to sites in the Nehalem and Willamette River basins where commonly the cover of timber and brush is dense and the rocks are rather deeply weathered.

On the Middle Santiam and South Santiam Rivers, the Cascadia, Greenpeter, and Sweet Home sits have been studies intensively by the United States Engineer Department, whose work included exploration by diamond-drill holes and test pits. Their conclusions as to geologic features are given in a report by McKitrick and have been reviewed by the writer. Data from this source have been used freely in the discussion of the respective sites in this report.

The probability of destructive earthquakes in the region appears to be small but is not negligible. Prudence suggests that any high dam should embody features to assure stability against moderately strong earth motions.

Publication Year 1947
Title Geologic features of dam sites in the Nehalem, Rogue, and Willamette River basins, Oregon, 1935-37
DOI 10.3133/ofr4712
Authors A. M. Piper
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 47-12
Index ID ofr4712
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse