Discover the mystery of the abandoned Gold Hills Dam. Explore the decaying structure surrounded by scenic views. Experience the allure of this abandoned dark tourism gem nestled amidst nature’s embrace.
What’s left of the Gold Hills dam is located in an obscure small town in southern Oregon, not far from Medford, OR. Home to 1,200 Oregonians and not much else, the abandoned, decaying dam is hiding in plain sight and a part of the dark tourism family of destinations.
The town, nestled next to the Rogue River, drew a significant portion of the town’s freshwater supply from the Rogue River 1 mile (1.5 kilometers) upstream of the Gold Hills town center. The human-made 8′ tall concrete dam spanned the river’s width, diverting some of the crystal clear water into the town’s drinking water supply.
Environmental science has shown that almost all dams are (typically) more impactful on the environment than helpful. Unfortunately, this was the case with Gold Hills, as the dam significantly impacted fish migrations and slowed Salmon’s annual passage returning to their spawning grounds.
In 2008, the Gold Hills Irrigation District approved and demolished the Gold Hills dam after the city re-engineered the central water intake – making the dam obsolete.
By 2009, contractors removed the 8 foot (~3 meter) concrete barrier across the river, and the diversion canal was filled, returning the landscape and Rogue River to their natural state.
Through the viewfinder
Gold Hills Dam Uncensored
Interestingly, the engineering plans went into great detail on protecting the fish, carefully removing the concrete dam structures, and returning the river banks to the way they were. They either left behind or entirely ignored the diversion sluice superstructure right next to the Gold Hills Sports Park on Highway 234.
Much like Centralia’s Old Highway 61, The Gold Hill dam sluice is wholly abandoned, decaying, and will one day collapse. It has become a daily graffiti magnet for artists to show their work. Each day, the dilapidated pump house is coated with countless cans of spray paint, decorating the pump house, sluice gates, and retention areas with spontaneous creativity.
Getting to the sluice and pump house is easy to miss. There are no marked paths; you can barely see the building over the bushes along the hiking trail adjacent to Highway 234. Once you figure out how to get there, the Gold Hills dam pump house has gaping holes in the walls facing the Rogue River. The roof has signs of imminent collapse with no posted signs warning of the danger.
Everything you need to know before you visit the Gold Hills Dam
HIGH SEASON (MOST EXPENSIVE)
June – September
LOW SEASON (LEAST EXPENSIVE)
October – May
United States Dollar (USD)