Date of visit: May 30, 2011
Population: 586 (2010 Census)

Originally named Alkali when it was first settled, the town’s named changed to Arlington when it was incorporated in 1885. 71 years later, in 1956, the residents of the little riverside community had to decide if they wanted to abandon their town or relocate it. Arlington lies along the Columbia River and the John Day Dam was scheduled to be constructed downstream. Once that happened the downtown business section would be under 30 feet of water. 80% of the residents voted to relocate the town to higher ground, so that’s what happened.

On October 22, 1960 they held a farewell party and started the arduous process of moving the town. The new business district on higher ground had to be prepared, which included laying down 60,000 cubic yards of dirt. Water, sewer, and utility lines had to be located and removed. 40 businesses and 85 homes in the flood zone had to be relocated. Buildings were torn down or burned; the last of the buildings were burned on March 3 and 4, 1966. The John Day Dam was completed in 1971 and Lake Umatilla formed behind the dam, drowning the now empty space where downtown Arlington used to be. When all was said and done, the Army Corps of Engineers spent $5 million to relocate the town.

Welcome to Arlington

Town by the river
Looking down on the business district of town from the hills above.

Town on a hill
Looking down from the hills on the other side.

Earl Snell Memorial Park
The backwaters of the John Day Dam formed this lagoon in the depression of land where the business district used to be. Now Arlington has a nice waterfront park.

Another Caboose
A caboose at the park which has historical exhibits inside.

One of Arlington’s churches

Map of Arlington

Oregon Towns Project