Private timber companies harvested most of the forest in the Santiam Canyon between 1880 and 1930. By the 1930’s and 1940’s with the land either logged over or burned by wildfire, many of the timber companies which owned the land saw little value in the forest. Many landowners let their land return to the counties for delinquent taxes while others sold it to the county for a minimal amount. The Forest Acquisition Act, passed in 1939, encouraged counties to deed the foreclosed lands to the Oregon Department of Forestry in exchange for a share of future timber harvest revenues.
By the time the state took ownership, much of the forest already was naturally restocked with a native mix of seedlings. The only part of the Santiam State Forest that was planted by the Department of Forestry was the area burned by the 1951 Sardine Creek Fire, which burned approximately 21,400 acres northeast of Mehama.
Today, the forest is divided into several large blocks of land and numerous smaller parcels along Highway 22, approximately 20 miles from Salem. The Santiam State Forest encompasses more than 47,000 acres in the foothills of the Cascades, and is managed by the North Cascade District, within three counties: Clackamas, Marion, and Linn.
About 16,000 acres of the Santiam was damaged in the 2020 Labor Day fires, and some of these areas are re-opening as safety hazards are cleared and, in limited areas, post-fire harvest has occurred. Learn about damage to the forest, restoration plans, and status of popular recreation sites.