Bureau of Reclamation Banner
Deschutes Project
Wickiup Dam
Project Links
Project History
Project Data
Contact Information
Related Facilities
Related Documents
Deschutes Project Brochure (745 KB) (pdf)
Deschutes Project History (59 KB) (pdf)
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits

General Description

The Deschutes Project lands are in the vicinity of Madras, Oregon. Principal features include Wickiup Dam and Reservoir, Crane Prairie Dam and Reservoir, Haystack Dam and Reservoir, North Unit Main Canal and lateral system, and the Crooked River Pumping Plant. The project furnishes a full supply of irrigation water for about 50,000 acres of land within the North Unit Irrigation District, and a supplemental supply for more than 48,000 acres in the Central Oregon Irrigation District and Crook County Improvement District No. 1.

Return to top


Storage for the North Unit Irrigation District is provided in Wickiup Reservoir on the main Deschutes River, about 35 miles southwest of Bend, Oregon. Releases from the reservoir are diverted from the river at North Canal Dam, which was built by local interests before Bureau of Reclamation construction work began. Water is carried to the project lands by the North Unit Main Canal and distributed through a system of laterals. Water stored in Crane Prairie Reservoir is also diverted by the North Canal Dam into delivery and distribution systems privately built and operated by Central Oregon Irrigation District and Crook County Improvement District No. 1.

Facility Descriptions

Wickiup Dam, Dike, and Reservoir

Wickiup Reservoir, with a total capacity of 200,000 acre-feet (active 200,000 acre-feet), completed in 1949, stores water for the irrigation of lands in the North Unit Irrigation District. The dam is a zoned earthfill structure, 100 feet high, with a crest length of 13,860 feet. The dam and dike contain 1,852,000 cubic yards of material. The East Dike closes a low area on the east side of the reservoir, and has a crest length of 3,420 feet. The spillway is an open rock cut with concrete sill at the north end of the East Dike.

Dam safety investigations identified that Wickiup Dam could fail from foundation liquefaction as a result of ground motion during a moderate seismic event. Saftey of Dams modifications completed in 2003 included installation of jet grout columns along a portion of the downstream toe of the dam, new drainage features and a downstream stability berm.

Haystack Dam and Reservoir

Haystack Dam is a zoned earthfill offstream storage facility located about 10 miles south of Madras, Oregon. Most of the stored water in the reservoir is diverted from the North Unit Main Canal which receives its water from Wickiup Reservoir. Releases from Haystack Reservoir flow in a feeder canal back to the North Unit Main Canal for use in the service area. The feeder canal also acts as a spillway.

Because of the distance from Wickiup Reservoir to the lands of the North Unit, the regulatory storage provided by the 5,600 acre-foot Haystack Reservoir is required. The dam is an earthfill structure 105 feet high at its crest with a width of 25 feet and length of 1,200 feet, containing 535,000 cubic yards of material.

Crane Prairie Dam and Reservoir

Several local irrigation districts serving lands south of the North Unit, principally the Central Oregon Irrigation District, joined in building a rockfilled timber-crib dam at the Crane Prairie site, about 2 miles above Wickiup Reservoir on the Deschutes River. By the time work began on the North Unit, the dam had become unsafe and was rehabilitated by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1940. Crane Prairie Dam is an earthfill structure 36 feet high and 284 feet in length at its crest. It contains 30,000 cubic yards of material. The spillway is an uncontrolled weir in the floor of an open cut channel in the left abutment. The reservoir has a total capacity of 55,300 acre-feet (active 55,300 acre-feet).

The right wall of the spillway was raised 9 feet in 1992 to enable passage of 60 percent of the probable maximum flood without overtopping the dam.

North Unit Main Canal

The North Unit Main Canal, with an initial capacity of 1,000 cubic feet per second, heads at the diversion dam near Bend and extends about 65 miles to the vicinity of Madras. Structures included are a concrete flume crossing Crooked River Gorge, and two tunnel sections in the vicinity of Smith Rock that have an aggregate length of 1.3 miles.

Water conservation became a priority project for the North Unit Irrigation District following several years of low water supply conditions. Investigations indicated that significant seepage occurred in the first 12 miles of the basalt lined North Unit Main Canal and a plan was developed to line this section using roller-compacted concrete for the invert and shotcrete for the side slopes. This work was completed by the North Unit Irrigation District during 1998 and 1999.

Crooked River Pumping Plant

In 1968, the North Unit Irrigation District constructed a pumping plant adjacent to and at the point where the North Unit Main Canal crosses the Crooked River. The purpose of the plant is to furnish a supplemental water supply, when needed, by pumping from the Crooked River and discharging into the North Unit Main Canal.

The plant consists of nine vertical shaft pumps with a total capacity of 200 cubic feet per second at a total dynamic head of 150 feet. Each pump is powered by a 450-horsepower motor that pumps the water into a 60-inch steel-pipe discharge line 220 feet long.

Operating Agencies

Operation and maintenance of the North Unit, including Wickiup Dam, was transferred to the North Unit Irrigation District on January 1, 1955.

Return to top



The valley plains were first devoted to grazing sheep and cattle, but this was replaced gradually by dryland wheat farming. Farmers harvested yields as high as 25 to 30 bushels per acre; however, as soil moisture became depleted and the area was subjected to a series of dry years, the yields dropped. By the 1930`s, dryland wheat production became generally unprofitable. Early settlers acquired average landholdings of 160 acres under the Timber Culture and Desert Land Acts, but with the lessening wheat yields, ownership of land became concentrated in fewer parcels.

Irrigation in the Deschutes River Basin dates back to 1871 when farmers diverted water from Squaw Creek, a tributary of the Deschutes River. In 1895, construction of the Squaw Creek Canal was begun. By 1905, irrigation had been developed to include the Swalley Canal in 1899, the Central Oregon Irrigation District canals in 1900, and the Arnold Canal in 1905.


In 1914, a comprehensive report of the Deschutes Basin was issued under the joint sponsorship and financing of the State of Oregon and the Federal Government.

Private consulting engineers investigated irrigation possibilities for the North Unit from 1917 to 1921. The North Unit Irrigation District, formed in 1916, issued bonds to finance investigation and construction of a project to irrigate 133,000 acres. The results of this investigation were covered in a report dated April 1921. However, due to financial reverses, the investors backing the project did not undertake construction.

The Bureau of Reclamation (then the Reclamation Service) reviewed the original plan and supplemented it by a brief field study in 1921. This was followed by another study in 1924, under the joint sponsorship of the State of Oregon and the Bureau of Reclamation. The Bureau of Reclamation published a comprehensive study in 1936 of all storage possibilities above the Crooked River in the report upon which project authorization was based.


The project was authorized by a finding of feasibility by the Secretary of the Interior dated September 24, 1937, approved by the President on November 1, 1937, pursuant to section 4 of the Act of June 25, 1910 (36 Stat. 836) and subsection B of section 4 of the Act of December 5, 1924 (43 Stat. 702). Construction of Haystack Dam and equalizing reservoir was authorized by act of the Congress on August 10, 1954, (68 Stat. 679, Public Law 83-573). Irrigation is the authorized purpose.


Project construction began in 1938 on the North Unit Main Canal and in 1939 on Wickiup and Crane Prairie Dams. The Crane Prairie Dam was completed in 1940; however, World War 11 delayed completion of other features until 1949. Haystack Dam construction began in 1956 and was completed in 1957.

Return to top



Principal crops produced are grain, hay, pasture, mint, potatoes, and seeds.

Recreation, Fish & Wildlife

Crane Prairie and Wickiup Reservoirs are located in the Deschutes National Forest near the crest of the Cascade Mountain Range. The Forest Service administers recreation for both reservoirs. The Wickiup Reservoir area encompasses 5,717 acres of land and 11,200 acres of water surface, with about 48 miles of shoreline. The Crane Prairie Reservoir area encompasses 2,200 acres of land and 4,940 acres of water surface; there are about 24 miles of shoreline. There are several campgrounds at each reservoir in addition to facilities for picnicking and for boat launching and mooring. Each reservoir has a private concession that provides lodging and supplies for recreationists. Both reservoirs are heavily used by migrating waterfowl, and are excellent for fishing.

The Haystack Reservoir area encompasses 271 acres of land and 233 acres of water surface, with 5 miles of shoreline. There are facilities for camping, picnicking, boat launching and mooring, and designated areas for swimming. Lodging and boat rental are available from a private concessionaire. Planted rainbow trout provide excellent fishing.

Flood Control

The Deschutes Project has provided an accumulated $1,290,000 in flood control benefits from 1950 to 1998.

Return to top

Last updated: Jan 03, 2013