At some point prior to 1907, the Winchester Dam’s powerhouse on the southern bank of the North Umpqua River was rebuilt. The dam’s height was raised to 17-feet, and the log crib dam was partially encased in concrete.

The May 1, 1911, Roseburg Review reported on a fire that destroyed the Winchester Dam powerhouse and interrupted water and electrical service to the City of Roseburg, 

“Contingent upon the arrival of the machinery is the date for resumption on a normal basis of local water, light and power service, which is crippled, more or less, as the result of the destruction of the station.”

The damage was estimated at $38,000.

Two days later, the Roseburg Review added, “A carload of new machinery including a large, new, dynamo, or electric generator, was shipped from San Francisco … and should be here by Friday.” 

J.L. and S.A. Kendall, the owners of the Winchester Dam and sawmill were also investors in the Douglas County Water and Light System, the company that rebuilt the powerhouse.

“The April 10, 1912, Roseburg Review reported, “Thirteen hundred barrels of cement went into the construction of the new plant and it is built upon lines which make it practically impossible for another fire to damage it seriously. The Winchester Plant generates about 800 horse power…”

Engel and Worth Lumber Company and Winchester Dam power plant

In 1923, the Winchester Dam and the holdings of the Douglas County Light and Water Company, were purchased by the California Oregon Power Company (COPCO) of Medford, Oregon. COPCO President, Paul B. McKee ordered a thorough review of the condition and construction of the Winchester Dam:

“The dam, which is used only to create head, is of hollow timber frame construction with decking of three inch planks. The total length of the timber section of the dam is about four hundred feet and there is a short section of concrete at each end. During periods of normal flow a head of about fourteen feet is obtained…The power house building is located at the south end of the dam, the concrete foundation of the building forming one abutment of the dam…

“The Douglas County Light and Water Company plans to increase the capacity of this development by abandoning the present plant and diverting the water from the crest of the dam along the north side of the river for a distance of about three-quarters of a mile, obtaining a head of thirty-five feet … The California Oregon Power Company would not be interested in the further enlargement of the Winchester plant on account of the small capacity and the high cost per kilowatt.”

In the early twentieth century, they cut a deep “V” notch in the dam face through which the water would flow. The fish could leap through the “V” notch and access spawning grounds upstream. Commercial fishermen netted fish attempting to leap through the “V” notch. Over 100,000 lbs. of fish were caught there and shipped to restaurants in Albany, Salem, in Portland.

During high winter high flows huge trees and roots balls are carried down river and collide with the wood and concrete Winchester Dam, punching holes in its face. Every six or seven years they’d drain the water behind the dam and repair the leaks.

The “V” notch in the Winchester Dam was replaced with a concrete fish ladder in 1945. The 78-year-old fish ladder is now so old, the concrete is worn down to the rusting rebar. It’s so out-of-date, tour guides at the Soda Springs Dam and Rock Creek Dams like to tell visitors how their modern, twenty-first century, multi-million dollar fish ladders are infinitely better and safer than the one at the Winchester Dam (and don’t main and kill fish).

As the population of Roseburg grew and the demand for electricity increased exponentially, the low capacity of the Winchester Dam power plant proved to be its death knell. Soon COPCO was dependent on electricity generated outside of Douglas County.

In 1948, the Toketee Powerhouse – the first of the eight dams in the new North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project – was erected sixty miles upstream from the Winchester Dam. Although COPCO continued to operate the Winchester Dam, it was obsolete by the 1950s.

In the summer of 1961, the Pacific Power & Light Company acquired COPCO and the now archaic Winchester Dam.

The December 1964 floods caused $500 million in damages throughout Oregon. Many bridges and dams were damaged. The powerhouse at Winchester Dam was flooded. By this time it was so out-of-date, in 1965 Pacific Power & Light abandoned it rather than rebuild and update the facility.

In 1969, for the sale price of one-dollar, Pacific Power & Light Company transferred ownership of the Winchester Dam and the surrounding property to its present owner, the Winchester Water Control District (WWCD).

WWCD was formed by the property owners who lived close to the Winchester Dam site, solely for recreational purposes – which, curiously, is prohibited Oregon law. 

Oregon Revised Statute 553.020 specifically requires all water control districts in the State of Oregon to provide a public purpose such as hydroelectricity, irrigation, or flood control.

Since 1969, the Winchester Dam’s only function has been as a 7,500-foot-long private water ski lake for several dozen WWCD homeowners who own boats.