2024 N.W. Beech Street
Madras, Oregon 97741
(541) 475-3625 (24 hrs)
(541) 475-3652
(541) 475-3905 (fax)


Early homesteaders to Jefferson County ranched and practiced dry-land farming techniques, with wheat becoming the dominant agriculture commodity in the area by the early 1900s. Despite being one of the most successful dry-farming areas in Central Oregon, local farmers began to experience a moisture shortage after 1925. Hit hard by the dry-spell, coupled with the arrival of the Great Depression, many dry-land farmers left. Those that remained realized that to exist, they needed a reliable source of water.

Construction on the North Unit Project began on July 21, 1938, but was stalled due to the arrival of World War II. With the completion of the North Unit canal in 1946, water was delivered to 17,000 acres during 1946 and 1947. By the spring of 1949, all 50,000 acres were receiving water.

North Unit was the largest of the Deschutes projects in Central Oregon. Created by the Bureau of Reclamation, the irrigation project was operated by the agency until 1955, when the North Unit Irrigation District took over.


Jefferson County Water Festival


Jefferson County Cultural Coalition Grant


North Unit Irrigation District would like to express our appreciation to the Jefferson County Cultural Coalition (JCCC) for the grant they provided the district to assemble historical photos of the irrigation project into story boards.  The story boards will be framed and displayed in the district office and a second traveling set of story boards will be used for educational purposes at public events.  For additional information about the JCCC please visit their website at www.jeffersonculture.org or find them on Facebook.  In addition the Oregon Cultural Trust provides statewide visibility for JCCC programs and projects.  You can find more information about the Oregon Cultural Trust by visiting their website at www.culturaltrust.org. To view the history boards click on the links below.


North Unit Irrigation District Wickiup Dam & Reservoir Construction Period 1939-1949
Wickiup Dam and Reservoir 1941-1944 Wickiup Dam & Reservoir 1943-1950
Bend Headworks - Main Canal 1938-1948 Canals, Laterals & Structures 1938-1948
Tunnels and Siphon (Main Canal) Crooked River Crossing (Main Canal) 1944-1946
Haystack Dam Construction Period 1956-1957 Water Festival May 18, 1946
1952 Weed Holiday Project Lands 1945-1949
1944-1952 Farms and Business