Success & failure along an urban waterway

May 19, 2015
Contributed by Phil Sollins, Emeritus Professor of Forest Ecology and Soils, Oregon State University

The Corvallis Mill Race has long been an object of historical interest, urban neglect, and wild rumors. Its history and reputation are intimately tied to the companies that used it, abused it, and ignored it at their peril.

Here I recount results of about one year of research on the history and current condition of the Mill Race. Almost all of the early history of the Mill Race comes from existing reports (e.g., Clark 1984; Teresi-Burcham and Gallagher, 1994). It turns out, however, that the early history had been researched in far more detail than the events of the last 70 years. As a result, the vast majority of the information presented post-WWII comes from primary sources, mostly records from Benton County and the City of Corvallis. The help of Linda Stevens, Clay Brooks, and Kevin Loso (City) and Joe Mardis and Doug Sackinger (County) is gratefully acknowledged. Some of the photos used here were provided by Benton County Historical Museum (Mary Gallagher) and OSU Library (Larry Landis). Aerial photos were provided by City of Corvallis, OSU Library, U of O Library, and Greenbelt Land Trust.

This report is a work in progress and will be updated frequently as time permits and as new information is uncovered. It presently consists of three parts:

  • a slide show, which is an enlarged version of a talk I presented at the Corvallis City Library in April 2015 as part of the debut of photographic history exhibit created by Marys River Watershed Council under the direction of Lee Sherman and Xan Augerot.
  • a Mill Race Chronology 050815 (work in progress);
  • a Mill Race Cause-Effect Table 032415, describing actions taken over the years that are relevant to the Mill Race and their unintended (but often all too predictable) consequences.

These are living documents, which will be updated as new information becomes available. Check back again!

Reports Cited

Clark, R.L. 1984. Cultural Resources Report: Marys River – Kiger Island Drive, Benton County. Oregon Dept. of Transportation.

Teresi-Burcham, L. and M.K.Gallagher. 1994. Oregon Inventory of Historic Properties: Historic Resource Survey Form (Corvallis Millrace), City of Corvallis (submitted to, and rejected by, Oregon State Historic Preservation Office).


Learn more: Mill Race Website