The waters of Clear Lake in the Central Oregon Cascades are so clear, it is hard to see where the water ends and the bottom of the lake begins.
If you love hiking, fishing, photography or camping, Clear Lake is the place to be in the Fall.
It’s the time of year when leaf-popping is popular and gorgeous colors are in full show.
When the mood to move strikes each Fall, there are few places I like to be than Oregon’s high mountain country and there are few ways that I prefer to travel than taking my Home on the Road in an RV. Chris and I packed up our rental RV from our good friends at RV Northwest in Tigard, Oregon, (RV Northwest) and traveled to a place I remember visiting as a child. I was eager to see Clear Lake once again!
Clear Lake is nicknamed the "Lake Born of Fire!" It formed 3,000 years ago when a lava eruption reached the McKenzie River and backed up water to form clear lake.
Early recreation arrived in the 1920s when the Santiam Fish and Game Association was formed by nearby Linn County residents who wanted to protect the lake.
“There were businessmen, doctors, lawyers, you name it,” said longtime SFG Association member, Dale Wollam. “They were working men and for anyone who had a liking for the outdoors, this was just a pretty place to come visit.”
Association member, Bud Barnes, added, “I think most people came up here and stayed several days because we kept the prices down to the point where a working man could come here and afford to stay for a week without completely breaking him.”
The SFGA built cabins, a store, docks and rental boats – and the place thrived year-round as an affordable getaway. In 2007, Linn County bought the site and manages it in partnership with the US Forest Service.
Family traditions continue today with a rod, reel and bucket of night crawlers for visitors like Will Tucker and his granddaughter, Stella Lang, who were having a ball catching rainbow trout.
“We always catch at least one,” noted Tucker. “So we can have a trout for dinner. This is a nice one, little more than 14 inches long. All of my children caught their first fish on this lake and today, six of my grandchildren have caught their first fish here. Clear Lake is a mecca for trout fishing folks – even better, it’s open year-round.”
Will Tucker grew up playing as a kid at Clear Lake and he loves to share its beauty – and its secrets, like the easy hike (along a 6-mile long looped trail) to reach the underground spring that feeds Clear Lake.
“As you see, the springs look like 20 or 30 feet deep but it’s not! It’s 50-60 feet deep and so cold - 36 degrees – so you can’t swim to the bottom. The water is the purest you’re ever going to find! It’s been filtered by miles and miles of lava from Cascade mountains like Mt Washington and Mt Jefferson.”
Will also showed off many of the lake’s submerged trees; part of a forest that’s as old as the lake.
“These trees that you see underwater, they were captured or trapped by the lava flow that created the lake – they were submerged when the water backed up. They still stand in the lake because the water is so cold – too cold to rot and they’ve been here 3,000 years. There are dozens and dozens of these and it will be thousands of years before they disappear. It’s just an incredible place to visit.
Clear Lake is all of that and even more! The sort of place that lets you set your clock back – relax – and enjoy. It's Oregon!