Cold Springs Dam

". . . preserves and breeding grounds for native birds . . ." — President Theodore Roosevelt, February 25, 1909, establishing the Cold Springs Reservation


History of Cold Springs

Cold Springs Railroad Station, Cold Springs Wash, Cold Springs Reservoir and Cold Springs Canyon are all well-known geographic names in northwest Umatilla County.

The Cold Springs Railroad Station is on the Union Pacific Railroad on the south bank of the Columbia River about ten miles east of Umatilla.

Cold Springs Wash, Cold Springs Reservoir and Cold Springs Canyon are all related to the same watercourse, the one that is Cold Springs National Wildlife Refuge. Cold Springs Reservoir was formed when Cold Springs Wash was dammed in 1908 to provide storage for irrigation water coming down the wash and from that diverted from the Umatilla River and, occasionally, from the Columbia River.

Arroyo is a Spanish word meaning 'rivulet' or 'small stream,' and in the western United States the term is frequently used for intermittent creeks or dry watercourses, such as Cold Springs Wash. Doubtlessly inspired by Cold Springs Wash, a post office named Arroyo was established in these parts on July 15, 1878, with Clinton V. B. Reeder as the Postmaster. The name of this post office was changed to Cold Springs on April 2,1880, with Andrew C. Bryan as the postmaster. This post office was short-lived and was closed probably in 1883.

(Above Borrowed from Oregon Place Names by Lewis A. McArthur and revised by Lewis L. McArthur) 

Cold Springs National Wildlife Refuge is an "overlay refuge" of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Umatilla Irrigation Project. It was established as the "Cold Springs Reservation" on February 25, 1909, through Executive Order 1032 issued by President Theodore Roosevelt, which reserved the Cold Springs Reservoir (and other national lands) as ". . . preserves and breeding grounds for native birds . . ." to be managed by the Department of Agriculture. It was subsequently enlarged through Executive Order 1439 (November 25, 1911), Executive Order 8380 (March 21, 1940, which also changed the name to its current name) and Executive Order 1083 (March 9, 1955). Public Land Order 1803 (March 4, 1955) further enlarged the refuge.

One final acquisition was authorized, although it did not enlarge the refuge. When the refuge/reservation was first established, a 32.6-acre tract of land thought to be public was included in the boundary and was eventually fenced in. When it was later determined that this tract was privately owned, it was authorized for purchase by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission under the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act.

To learn about the dam and reservoir, read on.

Cold Springs Dam & Reservoir

Cold Springs Dam is an earthfill dam 115 feet high and 3,450 feet long at the crest with a volume of 793,000 cubic yards of fill (21,411,000 cubic feet). It was constructed in 1908. Additional work, much of it for safety, was undertaken in 1994-1995.

Cold Springs Reservoir is located about six miles northeast of Hermiston, Oregon. The primary source of water is diversion to the reservoir from the Umatilla River by the Feed Canal Diversion Dam and Canal. The reservoir’s total active capacity is 39,260 acre-feet (active 38,646 acre-feet), and the normal water surface elevation is 621.5 feet. Discounting the drainage area for the Columbia River (it is possible to divert water from the Columbia River to Cold Springs Reservoir, but this is rarely done), the drainage area for the reservoir is 186 square miles.


Underlying Geology

A few large exposures of basaltic lava bedrock (Columbia River basalt) can be seen on the valley sides downstream from the dam; alluvium and/or windblown silt cover most of the area bedrock. The alluvium appears to be chiefly sand, but beds of gravel and numerous cobbles and boulders can be seen at various places. The alluvium is thick, widespread deposit from the Missoula Floods, which occurred during the last ice age. In the spillway area bedrock is exposed only near the downstream end of the chute along the left wall. In this exposure the basalt is rather soft, crumbly and closely jointed. It is not highly resistant to erosion. Small exposures of basalt can be found at several places in the right hillside between the creek and spillway, but no rock was recognized on the right side of the spillway except at the downstream end. In a cliff along the right canyon wall about 300 feet left (east) of the spillway a considerable thickness of hard, fresh, highly resistant basalt also occurs.