Bureau of Reclamation Banner
Crooked River Project
Ochoco Dam
Project Links
Project History
Project Data
Contact Information
Related Facilities
Related Documents
Crooked River Project Brochure (1.95 MB) (pdf)
Crooked River Project History (55 KB) (pdf)
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits

General Description

The main body of the Crooked River Project lies north and west of Prineville, Oregon. The water resources of Ochoco Creek and Crooked River are used to furnish irrigation water for approximately 20,000 acres.

Project features include Arthur R. Bowman Dam on the Crooked River, Ochoco Dam on Ochoco Creek, a diversion canal and headworks on the Crooked River, Lytle Creek Diversion Dam and Wasteway, two major pumping plants, nine small pumping plants, and Ochoco Main and distribution canals.

By congressional approval in 1964, the 3,450-acre Crooked River Extension was added to the project. This additional acreage was made possible by using the extra capacity included in the canal and pumping plants when the Crooked Project was constructed, constructing six small pumping plants, and using a portion of the unassigned space in Prineville Reservoir.

A 5-year rehabilitation and betterment program was completed in 1982 where some 20 miles of concrete pipe laterals and drains were installed to replace existing open and unlined channels.

Return to top


The project provides water for irrigation through the addition of works to the Ochoco Irrigation District. The rehabilitated Ochoco Dam, supplemented by assigned space in Prineville Reservoir, (currently 68,273 acre-feet) furnishes an adequate water supply to both district and nondistrict lands. Releases from Ochoco Reservoir flow into the Ochoco Main Canal, which serves high-elevation project lands east and north of Prineville. Storage from Prineville Reservoir is released into the river and diverted to project lands by a diversion canal 6 miles above Prineville. From the headworks, the diversion canal runs north 8.3 miles across Ochoco Creek to the Barnes Butte Pumping Plant. The diversion canal serves irrigable lands along its course.

The Barnes Butte Pumping Plant lifts the water to the distribution canal which runs through the center of the district lands. The Ochoco Relift Pumping Plant lifts the water to replenish flows in the Ochoco Main Canal that serves lands west of McKay Creek. Lytle Creek Diversion Dam and Wasteway capture return flows from project lands in the Lytle Creek area and divert them into the project-built Rye Grass Ditch.

Facility Descriptions

Arthur R. Bowman Dam and Prineville Reservoir

Arthur R. Bowman Dam (formerly Prineville Dam) is an earthfill structure on the Crooked River about 20 miles upstream from Prineville. The dam has a height of 245 feet, a crest length of 800 feet, and a volume of 1,424,000 cubic yards of material. In 2011, Safety of Dams modifications to Arthur Bowman Dam included a six foot high parapet wall and raising portions of the spillway chute walls.

The spillway consists of an uncontrolled-crest inlet structure, chute, and stilling basin. Capacity of the spillway is 8,120 cubic feet per second at maximum water surface elevation of 3,257.9 ft. The outlet works has an intake structure with an 11-foot-diameter circular tunnel upstream from the gate chamber, an 11-foot modified horseshoe tunnel downstream from the gate chamber, and a stilling basin which is shared with the spillway. The capacity of the outlet works is 3,300 cubic feet per second at normal water surface elevation of 3,234.8 ft.

The total capacity of Prineville Reservoir at closure was 154,690 acre-feet (active 152,800 acre-feet). A reservoir sedimentation survey completed in 1998 estimates the total capacity at 150,200 acre-feet (active 148,600 acre-feet).

Ochoco Dam and Reservoir

Ochoco Dam, a hydraulic-fill structure on Ochoco Creek 6 miles east of Prineville, was constructed immediately after World War I as a part of the Veterans Farm Settlement Program undertaken by the State of Oregon. The left abutment is an alluvial fan, and the right abutment is a slide mass consisting of fine earth and rock. The original dam was about 126 feet high and 1,000 feet long, with an average crest width of 15 feet. The dam leaked badly through the main section, with heavy leakage at or through the right abutment. Since the dam was a constant hazard to life and property in the valley and the city of Prineville, some rehabilitation was required. The dam was rehabilitated by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1949 and the reservoir capacity was increased at that time. The dam provides flood control of Ochoco Creek in addition to storing water for irrigation. As repaired and reconstructed by the Bureau of Reclamation, the dam is 125 feet high with a crest length of 1,350 feet. The spillway is an open concrete chute at the south end of the dam.

Work under the Safety of Dams Program was initiated in 1994 and completed in 1998. This included, among other things, installation of an upstream interceptor trench and drainage system, replacement of riprap on the upstream face of the dam, a new outlet works, and spillway modifications. As part of this work, the intakes in the outlet tower were raised. This work, together with findings of a 1990 sedimentation survey, resulted in an active reservoir capacity of 39,600 acre-feet at spillway crest elevation 3130.7 feet.

Title to Ochoco Dam was retained by the Ochoco Irrigation District.

Lytle Creek Diversion Dam and Wasteway

Lytle Creek Diversion Dam is a rockfill structure with timber cutoff and embankment wing on Lytle Creek near Prineville. The dam has a streambed height of 4 feet, a crest length of 200 feet, and diversion capacity of 72 cubic feet per second.

The wasteway heads at Lytle Creek Diversion Dam, have an initial capacity of 160 cubic feet per second, and empty into Rye Grass Ditch. Headworks are controlled by one 18-inch and two 36- inch slide gates.

Barnes Butte Pumping Plant

Barnes Butte Pumping Plant lifts a maximum of 147 cubic feet per second from the end of the diversion canal to the head of the distribution canal. The pump site is at the foot of Barnes Butte, about 0.75 mile east of the city limits of Prineville. The plant consists of five pumping units that total 1,800 horsepower.

Distribution Canal

The distribution canal serves all Ochoco District lands west of Barnes Butte below an elevation of 2,950 feet and above Rye Grass Ditch. In addition, the canal carries water lifted by Ochoco Relift Pumping Plant to Ochoco Main Canal near McKay Creek to serve lands below this main canal. The distribution canal carries water about 15.8 miles in a northerly direction and has an initial capacity of 102 cubic feet per second.

Ochoco Relift Pumping Plant

The Ochoco Relift Pumping Plant pumps a maximum of 80 cubic feet per second from the distribution canal to the Ochoco Main Canal to irrigate lands west of McKay Creek. The plant contains four units, operates against a total dynamic head of 99 feet, and produces a total of 1,300 horsepower.

Extension Pumping Plants

The features completed to serve the additional acreage in the Crooked River Project Extension include six small pumping plants and associated canals, laterals, and drains. These features serve lands of six separate areas located generally east and north of the original project area. Combs Flat Pumping Plant pumps water from the Diversion Canal, and the Hudspeth Pumping Plant pumps water from the Distribution Canal. The remaining four pumping plants, Johnson Creek, Tunnel, McKay Creek, and Grimes Flat, pump from the Ochoco Main Canal. Three much smaller pumping plants, Houston, and Stahancyk Nos. 1 and 2, were later installed in the extension area by the Ochoco Irrigation District.

Because of the increased water requirement for the additional acres in the extension area, it was necessary to install an additional pumping unit at both the Barnes Butte and Ochoco Relift Pumping Plants.

Rehabilitation and Betterment Program

A 5-year rehabilitation and betterment program was completed in 1982 during which concrete pipe was installed in laterals and drains to replace existing open and unlined channels. Some 18 miles of open laterals were enclosed with concrete pipe ranging from 10 to 24 inches in diameter. In addition., about 3 miles of open drain were enclosed with concrete pipe ranging from 6 to 18 inches in diameter. The program has increased the efficiency of system operation and has resulted in substantial water savings.

Operating Agencies

The Ochoco Irrigation District operates the project facilities.

Return to top



Immigrants to the Oregon area arrived in increasing numbers after 1842, usually bound for the valleys west of the Cascade Mountains. The first attempt at settlement in Ochoco Valley was made in the fall of 1867. The earliest diversion of water recognized by the courts in adjudication of water rights in the basin was from the South Fork of Crooked River in 1866.

As early as 1905, plans were made to irrigate a large portion of the Ochoco Valley. Because of difficulty in financing, this proposed development did not materialize until 1916, when the Ochoco Irrigation District was organized to build a dam and reservoir on Ochoco Creek to irrigate 22,000 acres of land. Those features were constructed with private capital in 1917-1919. The area was reduced to 8,500 acres in 1933.


In 1905, the U.S. Geological Survey issued a bulletin describing geology and water resources in central Oregon. An agreement dated May 5, 1913, between the United States and the State of Oregon provided for cooperative investigation of potential irrigation projects in the same area. In June 1915, a report issued by the Reclamation Service and the State of Oregon proposed several irrigation plans for the Crooked River Basin. During 1918-1921, the Ochoco Project was constructed by private interests in cooperation with the State of Oregon.

In the course of a basinwide investigation, the Bureau of Reclamation issued reports in 1936, 1940, and 1944, the last report proposing that the Prineville damsite be used. This site was adopted to secure control of a greater drainage area for flood detention and to inundate a lesser acreage of arable land. A report issued in 1949 embodied the present plan of development except that a storage capacity of 79,000 acre-feet was recommended. The report of February 1953, upon which authorized construction plans were based, recommended a storage capacity for Prineville Reservoir of 155,000 acre-feet. A report on the project extension was prepared in March 1960. The rehabilitation and betterment of the lateral and drainage system was covered by a report completed in April 1973.


The reconstruction of Ochoco Dam was authorized on June 28, 1948, in the Interior Department Appropriation, 1949. The Crooked River Project was authorized by the Congress on August 6, 1956 (70 Stat. 1058-9, Public Law 84-992) which incorporated Ochoco Dam. This Act was amended by the Congress on September 14, 1959 (73 Stat. 554, Public Law 86-271) to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to include extra capacity in the canal and pumping plants for future irrigation. The cost of this extra capacity was a deferred obligation until such time as additional lands were brought into the project.

The Crooked River Project Extension was authorized by the Act of September 18, 1964 (78 Stat. 954, Public Law 88-598). Rehabilitation and betterment of the lateral and drainage system was accomplished in 1982 under the provisions of the Rehabilitation and Betterment Act of October 7, 1949, as amended (63 Stat. 724 and 64 Stat. 11, Public Laws 81-335 and 81-451).

The 1956 Act authorized the Crooked River Project for irrigation and other beneficial purposes. Flood control is one of the project purposes. The preservation and propagation of fish and wildlife is provided for through the installation of a ladder and screen at the diversion headworks and a minimum release of 10 cubic feet per second for fishlife during months when there is no other discharge from Prineville Reservoir. Minimum basic recreation facilities were also authorized.


Ochoco Dam was rehabilitated in 1949-1950. Construction of Prineville Dam began in 1958, and was completed in 1961. Work on the Crooked River Extension began in 1966, and was completed in 1970.

Return to top



Irrigation in the project area has been successful over a period of many years. Principal crops are grain, hay, potatoes, and mint. Size of operating units varies widely, ranging from small suburban residential tracts to large livestock ranches which own or lease considerable grazing land outside the project area.

Recreation, Fish & Wildlife

State parks located on both reservoirs are among the most heavily used in Oregon. Ochoco Reservoir has 8 miles of shoreline, but there are only 20 acres of publicly owned lands in the reservoir area. Camping, swimming, picnicking, and boat launching and mooring facilities are available. Ochoco Reservoir is stocked annually with rainbow trout.

The Prineville Reservoir area encompasses over 8,700 acres with a reservoir surface of 3,030 acres providing 43 miles of shoreline. Camping, picnicking, swimming, lodging, dining, and boat launching and mooring facilities are provided by the State Park, by Crook County through its park system, and by a concessionaire. The reservoir offers excellent fishing for both warm- and cold- water species. A trout fishery has developed in Crooked River below the dam since the reservoir was created. The upper end of the reservoir has been designated a wildlife management area, and 3,800 acres of land and water provide habitat for a variety of wildlife including mule deer and numerous species of waterfowl.

A minimum release of 10 cubic feet per second is maintained from Prineville Reservoir for fishlife when there is no other discharge, but this release may be reduced for brief periods if it is determined that the release of the full 10 cubic feet per second is harmful to the primary purpose of the project.

Flood Control

In addition to the major purpose of furnishing an increased stable supply of irrigation water, the plan provides long-needed flood protection for Prineville and adjacent farm land areas. Flood control space is held in Ochoco Reservoir on a forecast basis to control Ochoco Creek, below the dam, to no more than 500 cubic feet per second. Similarly, space is held in Prineville Reservoir to control the Crooked River below Arthur R. Bowman Dam to no more than 3,000 cubic feet per second.

Dam and ReservoirAccumulated actual benefits 1950 - 1998 ($1000)Capacity assigned to flood control function (acre-feet)
Crooked River Project28,749 
Prineville 60,000
Ochoco 16,000

Return to top

Last updated: Jan 03, 2013