Cougar Dam, on the south fork of the scenic McKenzie River, is just off the McKenzie/Santiam Pass Scenic Byway. The dam demonstrates some cutting-edge efforts in support of the Willamette Hatcheries Biological Opinion Project and migrating salmon. A temperature control tower takes water of various temperatures from the reservoir and spills it into the river, keeping water cool in the summer for salmon. A trap-and-haul fish facility uses a fishway leading from the base of Cougar Dam to a holding pool where fish can be sorted and returned to the river or transported for release to sites above the dam. People may view and learn about these facilities and hike in the national forest or visit the hot springs nearby.
The local culture is enhanced in many ways by this dam. Cougar Dam is one of 13 that protect the Willamette Valley during flood events. It is set in the beautiful Willamette National Forest and is right near the Cougar Hot Springs. Learning more about how federal, state and other agencies are partnering to make things happen for the salmon speaks volumes about the culture of the people in this region.