▶️ Destination Oregon: Detroit’s recovery 2 years after wildfires


Do you remember what you were doing Sept. 9, 2020? The people of Detroit, Oregon sure do. They were being evacuated from their homes and their town as a massive forest fire bore down on them. The flames incinerated dozens of homes and businesses in the small tourist town on the shores of Detroit Lake. 

Three separate forest fires joined evil forces and leveled 1,500 structures in the Santiam Canyon. Locals had to evacuated and were allowed to come back three months later.

That was then.

This is now.

The flames spared Luke Lunski’s boat rentals and docks. But if it wasn’t in the water, it was a goner.

Josh Joshstone used to work in a restaurant here that fell victim to the fire. Seeing a need for food service, he decided to open the River Run Grill, a food cart, just in time for summer tourism.

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Last summer was bust for these tourism-based businesses trying to bounce back. The drought emptied Detroit Reservoir and with no water, no tourists and no ringing cash registers.

This year, the late spring-early summer heavy rains brought smiles to local faces and visitors to their businesses.

Detroit is seeing a rebuilding boom these days and that, along with the normal influx of tourists, is keeping local businesses hopping.

Nearby Detroit Lake State Park has been busy with boaters. paddle boarders and people fishing.

One of the two local stores survived the fire. None of the brick and mortar restaurants dodged the flames.

But new homes are going up. A new community center has been built. Detroit’s second marina is also doing a brisk business.

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Businesses here are working together. They support one another because they know that, together, Detroit is stronger. And they’ve got a full reservoir and all the summer tourism services you could ask for. Yes, Detroit looks different and if you haven’t been here since the fire, prepare to be a little shocked.

Once the shock wears off, you’ll be inspired by the spirit of the folks here. Detroit-strong is a real thing.

Detroit is 80 miles northwest of Bend on Highway 22 — an easy day trip or nice camping excursion.


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