The site of an abandoned, decaying dam hiding in plain site.

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What’s left of the Gold Hills dam is located in an obscure small town in southern Oregon. Home to 1,200 Oregonians and not much else, the abandoned, decaying Gold Hills dam is hiding in plain sight.

The town, nestled next to the Rogue River, drew a significant portion of the town’s freshwater supply from the Rogue River 1.5km 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′ concrete barrier across the river, and the diversion canal was filled, returning the landscape and Rogue River to their natural state.

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 Hills 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 train adjacent to Highway 234. Once you figure out how to get there, the building 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.

Through the viewfinder