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Part One

An Oregon Story:
Cottage Grove & the Willamette River

From Rivers to Reservoirs:
Cottage Grove & Dorena Dams

Part Two

The Last of the Lumbermills:
Changing Cultures & Economies

Cottage Grove:
Then & Now

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"We Really Had Floods"


Downtown Cottage Grove, 1909. Courtesy of Lane County Musuem

Many Cottage Grove residents remember a community shaped by the annual flooding of the valley. Retta Smith, who moved to Cottage Grove prior to World War II, describes using fence posts to guide herself along an unfinished road when high water obscured the gravel road bed. Isabelle Woolcott remembers a flood in 1926 when "you couldn't get across the street and the gutters were full." She recalls that "the water would come in the businesses on Main Street. Floors would be all wet, they'd have to set everything up."

Flooding was not just a minor inconvenience to shopping downtown or traveling away from home. At times it could be dangerous. Folks learned to be cautious about crossing roads swirling with river runoff, planned alternative routes when roads were unpassable, and worried about being cut off from emergency services. Retta Smith remembers the time she was pregnant and expecting her first child in March during flood season. Her mother-in-law contacted a midwife just in case Mrs. Smith could not be taken to the hospital in town. Fortunately, they "got to town and didn't have to worry about it that time."

Retta Smith talks about turning back after reaching high water.