Detroit, Oregon’s underwater ghost town (Coe)
Name: Detroit (Coe)
GPS: 44.712696, -122.191303
Directions: From Salem Oregon, head east on OR-22 for 50 miles. The remains of the town are accessible via Mongold State Park.
When the Oregon Pacific Railroad was being built by the scoundrel, Colonel T. E. Hogg, one of the last work camps was Coe, established in 1889. Unfortunately Colonel Hogg’s skimming of profits from the railroad came to a head in 1890, and the railroad officially shut down. But this was not enough to kill the burgeoning town though.
In 1891 enough residents lived in Coe to necessitate a Post Office. Unfortunately the name was too close to the Eastern Oregon town of Cove, so the Post Office was opened as Detroit with Vanness G. Danforth as the post master. The name was chosen because of the number of Michigan residents in the area.
A.B. Hammond and E.L. Bonner purchased the railroad in 1895 and changed it’s name to the Oregon Central and Eastern Railroad. Numerous lumber camps were established in the areas, and Detroit continued to grow as it supplied materials to them. Like many railroads in those days, passenger service became an important side business. Sportsman came to the area for fishing and hunting, and several hotels were built to cater to their business. One of these was Merle Bruckman’s Breitenbush Hot Springs Resort built in 1927.
Unfortunately A.B. Hammond died in 1934, and the Great Depression was in full swing. This killed both the timber industry and tourism industry in Detroit. In 1946 the United States Army Corps of Engineers started buying land in the area in preparation to building the Detroit Dam. The town of Detroit was moved to it’s present location in 1952 on the site of a former lumber camp high above the proposed level of the new lake. The Detroit Dam was finished in June 1953, and the former town site was inundated as the lake filled up.
The remains of the town can only be seen at periods of extreme low water. The above pictures were taken in February 2013, and I have been informed several times now are actually the remains of the camp built to house workers at the dam as it was being constructed.