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High Cascade Canoe Paddle

by Grant McOmie

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

Posted on August 7, 2009 at 1:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:35 PM



Central Oregon's Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is a path once taken, you'll never want to leave, but ---you might try a summer detour!

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I did just that at Sparks Lake, 25 miles west of Bend, and I found adventure on the water with Wanderlust Tours.


Jeff Gartzke was the guide for an afternoon canoe paddle across Sparks Lake.

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I joined an enthusiastic group of folks, each sporting mile-wide smiles, PFD's and had their paddles in hand. Each was eager and ready to go aboard canoes to see the lake from a different point of view.

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Gartzke noted that flat-water paddling is an easy activity that requires a short amount of practice time, especially on Sparks Lake:


"Sparks Lake is one of about 12 lakes that we have to choose from for our afternoon paddle trips. It is well over a mile in length from north to south and people are impressed by the scenery - it's as photo-friendly as central Oregon's high lakes can get."

At 5400 feet in elevation, Sparks Lake is perfectly suited to a canoe adventure with awesome views of South Sister, Broken Top and Mount Bachelor.


Sparks Lake was formed more than ten thousand years ago when lava blocked the Deschutes River. In fact, a narrow channel -- defined by volcanic rock shorelines -- connects two halves of Sparks Lake. The lake covers approximately 400 acres and it is no more than ten feet deep.


We paddled, we smiled and we laughed as we toured the lake. After a couple of hours we arrived at a sprawling sandy beach.

The site offered plenty of elbowroom for a shore side lunch and a cold brew to go with the expansive view of the lake and the surrounding mountains.

It was a stunning setting not lost on our fellow paddlers, including local resident Mike Sawyer:

"Oh - love it" he noted. "This lake is one of the reasons I live in nearby Bend and I enjoy coming out here as often as I can. I hike, ski and boat - it's a wonderful place to live, work and play."


Gargzka smiled and agreed - he offered that the contrast of the rugged rock, broken by the soft, colorful beauty of the shoreline's wildflowers draws him back to Sparks Lake each week.

"It's a true testament - a true trial - to find something in central Oregon that isn't volcanic in origin; it's volcanic all around you. Any rise in the landscape, any hill around you is volcanic in one form or another and the scale of it all makes my work a dream job. This is my office right here. Can't beat it!"


I completely agree and cannot wait for my next paddling tour into the high cascade country of Central Oregon.

You might consider making your High Cascade Canoe Paddle on Sparks Lake with Wanderlust Tours, part of your entry in a unique travel contest. It's called the Oregon 150 Challenge and it offers a dream vacation as a grand prize.