History & Community Profile

Founded as a timber town and a home for workers at the Cazadero Hydroelectric Dam over a century ago, Estacada is symbol of resilience and adaptability. Our community has evolved and redefined itself time and again. One thing has remained constant, however, and that is the Clackamas River, which has always been the lifeblood of our city. Its mountain waters have powered the region, provided unlimited recreation, and forged our identity for generations.

Exploring Estacada: A Blend of Art, Culture, and History

Around here, we believe that one of the best ways to get to know a destination is to immerse yourself in it. And in a place like Estacada, there are a multitude of things to do, vintage shops to explore, locally made craft brews, and abundant art, culture, and history to experience.

Early Settlement and Indigenous Presence:

  • The Estacada area’s banks and fertile valleys adjacent to the Clackamas River were seasonal Clackamas Indian settlements, providing abundant fishing, hunting, and berry harvesting for thousands of years.
  • Estacada was sparsely settled by emigrants arriving on the Barlow Road segment of the Oregon Trail in the mid-to-late 1800s, unlike nearby Eagle Creek, which was a thriving community with a dance hall, saloons, a store, mills, schools, and a post office.

Estacada came into its own in 1903 with the building of Cazadero Dam, the first hydroelectric power plant on the Clackamas River, followed by Faraday and River Mill dams. Estacada’s post office was established in 1904 and the town became official in 1905. Oregon Power Townsite Company officials tossed names into a hat and the unusual name chosen was George J. Kelly’s suggestion of “Llano Estacado” after an area in Texas. Llano estacado, is “palisaded plain” in Spanish. It is unknown whether the “o” at the end was changed to an “a” inadvertently or on purpose. Suggestions that the town was named after a civic leader’s daughters, Esther and Katie, are unsubstantiated.

Development and Economic Growth:

  • The railroad, built to access the dam and the small community of Cazadero, opened up the vast wilderness of Douglas fir and western red cedar to logging.
  • It also provided transportation for agriculture and passengers.

By the 1920s Estacada was a resort destination, far eclipsing Eagle Creek, with a riverside park, dance hall, a grand hotel, stores, saloons, and five electric trolleys daily to and from Portland. Amazingly, the town also was the largest exporter of ginseng in the United States. Yes, ginseng!

Decline and Economic Shifts:

  • Rail use declined with the advent of the automobile and the Great Depression took its toll on agriculture export and tourism.
  • Logging kept the economy vital until the 1970s.

What Makes Estacada Unique?

A forest-grown Christmas tree or relaxed family canoeing; wild whitewater rafting or casual mural viewing; famed geocaching or challenging disc golf; mushroom hunting, trail trekking and motorcycle touring. Six wild and scenic rivers, a million acres of untamed wilderness and nine parks nearby. Find the unexpected adventure, or discover uncommon art. All right next door.

Who Will Enjoy Estacada?

For this generation or the next, long-time residents or new arrivals, Estacada’s the place to relax, explore, connect and get outdoors – river rats, weekend warriors, hard-core cyclists, adrenaline junkies and hot springs soakers. Or families looking for water playtime, campers going rough, friends ready to unwind and cast a line. Art to see, artists to learn from, unique treasures to take home. Any age, any time, any one will find new ways to play, unforgettable adventures and the unexpected far from city crowds and urban chaos. Breathe deeply, make memories, press “restart” on your everyday life.

Don’t miss our Feature Videos, highlighting the best of Estacada!

What Will You Find in Estacada?

Escape to Estacada. Go from the roar of traffic to the rhythm of the river. Grab two fat tires or one big paddle. Cycle, paddle, float, ramble or climb. Immerse yourself in trees, sky, water; summer’s greens and winter’s whites. Or wander through town to discover our history in murals, explore galleries and stop for a local craft beer. Events and festivals, celebrations, concerts and shows await. It’s an untamed, choose-your-own-adventure place with acres and acres of forest and miles and miles of river right here. A bit quirky, definitely different, and certainly unforgettable.

Acres of Forest to Trek & Explore Close By

  • A million acres of the Mt. Hood National Forest are out the back door, and 100 miles of rivers are yours to explore.
  • Hike or backpack into two designated wilderness areas on 45 miles of quiet and peaceful no-motors-allowed trails.
  • Fire up the OHV or snowmobile to power over 25 miles of trails just for you, around the mountain and through the woods.

Artists and Art Rise Above the Expected

  • Art and crafts, sculpture and outdoor murals, Estacada’s art and artists offer an uncommon perspective.
  • Experience the diverse work of more than 100 painters, writers, jewelers, sculptors, quilters, potters, musicians, weavers, actors, artists and artisans who call Estacada home.
  • Festivals for fungus, fireworks, fairs, celebrations, auctions and runs—there’s music, art & live performances for any age and anyone. Join us!

The River is Yours, Come Play!

  • Ride raging rapids or paddle in ripples—the Clackamas runs right through our town. Come play.
  • Seven campgrounds along the Clackamas offer 300 sites to sleep under the stars after a day on … or in… the water.
  • Boats, rafts, innertubes, paddleboards, kayaks, canoes—to paddle, explore, fish, picnic, look for wildlife or just cool off in six easy-to-get-to rivers and creeks.

Related Links

Estacada History
Visit Estacada History