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Lafayette Locks Historical Park

(7.1 acres)


From the center of Lafayette at the corner of 3rd and Madison Streets (Highway 99 and Lafayette Highway), travel East 0.4 miles. Turn right onto Locks Road. Lafayette Locks Park is at the end of the road, 0.6 miles from the highway.
 Click Here for Driving Directions & Map


  • River
  • Canoeing
  • Nature walk
  • Historical
  • Picnicking
  • Barbecue Pits
  • Playground
  • Vault Toilets

Listed on the National Historic Register, this 7.1-acre park features the remains of the old locks that once permitted boats to navigate up the Yamhill River to McMinnville. Meandering paths and picnic areas, under a canopy of ancient Douglas-fir, allow for nice views of both river and locks.


During the 1840's and 1850's substantial settlement began around Yamhill County. In 1846 Lafayette, Oregon, was incorporated as a city and established as the county seat. At that time the major commodities of the area were wheat and lumber. Transportation of these goods was essential to the development of the region. Since roads were often impassable during the winter season, river transport was one of the few dependable options.

Captain James Miller began the first regular river transport on the Yamhill River in the spring of 1850. Captain Miller's boat was a 65 foot flatboat powered by four Klickitat Indians. The main cargoes carried were bushels of wheat bound for the flour mills at Oregon City. The trip took one day downstream and two to three days upstream. The Indians were paid $16 each for the round trip. A year later steam powered vessels, the Hoosier and the Washington, were working the river system and took over most of the freight.

Due to the success of river transportation, in 1869 a group of men formed the Yamhill Locks and Transportation Company. Their long term goal was to establish a dam and locks on the Yamhill River. Establishment of the locks would increase the water level and extend the navigable waterway. Several reports were submitted by the Army Corps of Engineers advising the feasibility of improving the waterway on the Yamhill River. During the 1896-97 session, Congress appropriated $200,000 under the Rivers and Harbors Act for improvement to the Yamhill River. The appropriations were to be spent for locks 275 feet in length with a dam that would raise the water level 16 feet to allow for year-round transportation to McMinnville.

Construction of the locks took place from 1898-1900. The dam was a fixed type with a rock-filled timber crib structure. It measured approximately 125 feet in length from the lock wall to the east bank of the river. The crest of the dam was 16 feet above the low water point and 25 feet above the rock bottom. The locks consisted of concrete construction with a timber pile foundation. There is a 40 foot basin between the lock walls. The water level in the lock was manipulated by a hand controlled butterfly valve. The locks were officially opened September 21, 1900. The locks continued in use until February 7, 1954, when the Army Corps of Engineers shut them down because they were not being used, and they had become too expensive to operate.

In 1959, the United States sold the locks, dam, and associated land to Yamhill County for ten dollars. Oregon State Fish Commission investigations determined that the locks and dam were a barrier that kept native fish from migrating upriver to spawn. A fish ladder would need to be installed for the locks to continue in use. The County determined that the expense of constructing the fish ladder was greater than the benefit of the functioning locks, so the County dynamited the dam for fish passage.

Native Plant List

  • Douglas-fir
  • Grand fir
  • Big leaf maple
  • Oregon ash
  • Vine maple
  • Willow
  • Elderberry
  • Snowberry
  • Sword fern
  • Lady fern
  • Trillium

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