Life Beneath the Waves
I saw strange sights while out kayaking on Clear Lake in Oregon. Moss-covered creatures live beneath the waves waiting to enchant you and take you into their liquid world.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Liquid
This high elevation lake, 17 miles south of Sisters, Oregon, is a popular spot with visitors. Tam McArthur Rim towers over the south and west sides of the lake, making beautiful reflections at any time of the year. As you paddle around the lake (no motorboats are allowed), you will hear creeks babbling over the rocks as they enter the lake. The water level of this natural lake is controlled by a small dam at the outlet.
We went kayaking at the lake on a cool September morning after the Labor Day crowds left. We had the lake all to ourselves. The small general store was boarded up and closed for the season. A few inches of snow were on the ground.
Ground squirrels, chipmunks, and a scattering of birds were seen along the shores. When I brought my kayak back to the car, I almost had a couple unexpected house guests. Two ground squirrels had climbed into my kayak. I circled them in the picture above to show them running away. They are certainly entertaining!
A couple deer watched us from the distant shore.
These two mallards had the lake to themselves.
In summer months, you’ll see and hear osprey working the lake. You’ll hear the distinctive call of nuthatches and see Clark’s nutcrackers in the trees. This lake has a narrow border of sedges and the plants don’t offer as much cover as other lakes nearby.
This 28-acre lake has a depth of 11-28 feet. It is at an elevation of 6,550 feet and water temperatures stay cool throughout the year. Eastern brook trout and rainbow trout inhabit this lake. The rainbow trout are stocked in the lake but the brook trout are self-sustaining. Though you can fish from shore, most people fish from boats. Trolling with a flat fish lure from a kayak landed us a nice pan-size rainbow trout. Most fish here average around ten inches. For more on fishing, click here.
There’s a primitive boat launching area with limited parking at Three Creek Lake. A Northwest Forest Pass is required here. You can rent a boat from the Three Creek Lake Store but the store is only open from July to Labor Day in September.
There are three campgrounds and a hiking trailhead at the lake. Three Creek Lake Campground has 11 campsites, and it’s on the southeast side of the lake. Driftwood Campground is on the northern side of the lake and it has 18 sites. Three Creek Meadow Campground & Horsecamp is just north of the lake. That campground has nine sites for those with horses and 11 where horses are not allowed. The trailhead for the Tam McArthur Rim trail is near where the road T’s at the lake.
Little Lava Lake is a small lake that plays a very big role in Oregon. Located in the shadow of Mt. Bachelor, this lake is the source of the Deschutes River. From here, the river winds and meanders to the Columbia River, 252 miles to the north. This river supports a wide variety of wildlife and also provides water for power, irrigation, and drinking. It’s also an important ingredient in local beers.
Water from subsurface springs feed the lake. Occasionally water from Lava Lake, just northwest of Little Lava Lake, flows into this lake. Lava flows from past volcanic activity are visible along the shores.
To the north, you get great views of the Broken Top and South Sister volcanoes. To the northeast, Mt. Bachelor looms over the forest. It is a really scenic place to visit in a kayak! I like kayaking this lake because it has lots of interesting nooks and crannies.
There are great opportunities to see wildlife around this lake. Rushes and sedges form dense stands along the shorelines. Lodgepole pine forests border the lake.
On a cool September day as I kayaked around the lake, I saw common mergansers, mallards, a bald eagle, a great blue heron, a Lewis’ woodpecker, a winter wren, and many northern flickers and mountain chickadees. I heard nuthatches and ravens calling from the woods. Douglas’ squirrels and chipmunks were up to their usual mischief near the shoreline.
Little Lava Lake is 138-acres in size with an average depth of eight feet and a maximum depth of 18 feet. The lake is at an elevation of 4,750 feet. It’s located about 38 miles southwest of Bend, Oregon. Little Lava Lake is stocked with rainbow trout that average 6-12 inches in size. We caught a beautiful 12-inch rainbow trolling from a kayak. The brook trout population in the lake is self-sustaining. Whitefish and tui chub also live in this lake. For more details on fishing at Little Lava Lake, click here (on the Fishing tab) or here.
There is a boat launch on the eastern shore at Little Lava Lake. A Northwest Forest Service Pass is required here. Motorized and non-motorized boats are allowed on the lake.
Little Lava Lake Campground is located on the western shore of the lake. It has 13 campsites and two tent-only group sites. Lava Lake Resort is right next door. There is a store there and boat rentals, RV camping, gas, and oil. There are MANY trails nearby to explore.
My yard is blanketed with fresh snow and temperatures are in the teens but I’m glad I can think back to a warm summer day kayaking on Hosmer Lake. I hope to explore many new horizons in the new year and share them here.
To learn more about my great trip to Hosmer Lake, click here.
Weekly Photo Challenge – New Horizon
We recently went on a nice leisurely kayak trip down the Deschutes River. We parked one car at Benham Falls East Day Use area and parked the other one where we launched at Harper’s Bridge in Sunriver, Oregon. It took a little over 3 1/2 hours on a warm September day. The trip is about 10 river miles long.
This is a meandering river that passes through beautiful meadows and forested areas. We saw a few people close to the Sunriver Marina but then didn’t see many once we paddled past the Sunriver development. This float ended near parts of the lava lands of Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
We saw some interesting things along the way.
There were horseback riders and bicyclists stirring up dust on the riverside trail.
A young mallard came right up to me. Maybe it thought I was its Mom. :)
The footbridge spanning the river has beautiful architecture.
The river was calm and placid the day we went out. You should always check ahead of time for conditions. I recommend getting the Deschutes Paddle Trail River Guide published by the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance if you plan to do much paddling here. It includes the level of difficulty and where the access points are. You can flip through detailed maps covering 26 miles of the Little Deschutes River and 95 miles of the Deschutes River. It will help you find sections that match your skill level and avoid sections that are dangerous. Deschutes is French for “falls” and this river has a lot of them so know where they are before you take off.
I’m ending this post with a photo that I took of Benham Falls on a hike a couple of years ago. You may be able to see why parts of the falls are rated as Class V – “extremely difficult, long, and very violent rapids…” The ability to do Eskimo rolls in this section is considered “essential.” I think I will just appreciate their beauty from the shore!
Sunken sights await you at Clear Lake in Linn County, Oregon. This “young” lake was formed by nearby volcanic activity 3,000 years ago. The McKenzie River originates here.
The cold water temperatures preserved a forest of ghostly trees beneath the surface. The water temperature averages 35-43° F. Brrrr! The leaves and needles of the trees are long gone but their trunks and limbs stand like some prehistoric creature preserved in time. Some visitors get a closer look at the underwater sights by scuba diving here.
This 148-acre lake has an average depth of 50 feet and a maximum depth of 175 feet. In August, it was stocked with 2,500 rainbow trout – 500 of which were large fish. There are also brook trout in Clear Lake. We saw schools of fish at the southern end of the lake. Osprey were busy looking at those fish as well. Rafts of goldeneye ducks floated nearby.
Here’s a short video of the fish at the south end of the lake.
Clear and calm conditions provided some great opportunities to take photos of reflections from my kayak. See my post titled Nature’s Arrow for one of my favorites. The plants growing in the lava fields bordering parts of the lake were just starting to show fall colors.
You can camp or stay in a rustic cabin at the Clear Lake Resort and County Park . It’s open year-round. There are non-motorized boat rentals there and a small store/restaurant. There’s also the Coldwater Cove Campground that’s managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
This is a pretty lake and there are other natural attractions nearby. The viewing area for Sahalie and Koosah falls is just a mile away. The legendary Tamolitch (Blue) Pool is also close by. Note that the McKenzie Highway does pass close to Clear Lake and the falls so it may not be the quietest wilderness experience but the area is definitely worth a visit.
Weekly Photo Challenge: Mirror
Have you ever finally made it to a place that people had told you you HAD to go to? For me that place was Hosmer Lake. Why didn’t I go here sooner?!
We went early on a mid-weekday morning. I had heard about the crowds sometimes here on weekends. It can get very crowded – especially on summer weekends.
There is a concrete boat ramp leading into a bulrush-lined meandering lake. After boarding our kayaks, we were greeted almost immediately by a bald eagle perched in a nearby tree. It was almost as if it had been planted there for a photo opportunity. We paddled on and took a channel to the left.
Looking under our boats, we noticed many large fish. It is a fly fishing only catch-and-release lake. There are brook trout, rainbow trout, and Atlantic salmon here. They stopped stocking salmon in 2015. Now Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife is stocking cutthroat trout and “Cranebow” rainbow trout in Hosmer Lake. Cranebows are hatchery fish derived from wild redband trout that live in nearby Crane Prairie Reservoir. They are known for being feisty and strong.
For more information on where to fish within 90 minutes of Bend, go here.
The lake is shallow and clear so, according to one fisherman we saw, the fish may see you long before you attempt to catch them. We saw a great blue heron patiently perched nearby in pursuit of its own fish dinner.
The conifer forests, bulrushes, and water plants bordering the lake provide habitat for several types of birds. Swallows ascended then dipped low over the lake. A nighthawk squawked as it pursued a meal of flying insects. Yellow-headed blackbirds tiptoed across floating water plants. A sapsucker probed at a downed tree by the water’s edge. Pied-billed grebes and ring-necked ducks drifted by us with their young. A double-crested cormorant submerged and surfaced many yards away.
If you go at a time of light usage, you may not see anyone else for a while. It’s almost like you are in the wilds of Alaska instead of just 36 miles from the city of Bend, Oregon.
Hosmer Lake is one of the lakes along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway near Mount Bachelor, Broken Top, and the Sisters mountains. We get used to seeing these peaks in Bend but to see them up close like this as you paddle along is spectacular.
The lake is located at about 5,000 feet in elevation. The average depth is only three feet but it gets as deep as 12 feet. Hosmer Lake has a surface area of 198 acres. There are two U.S. Forest Service campgrounds located at the lake.
Fun fact: This lake was previously called Mud Lake. Before a small dam was installed on the lake in 1958, the lake was marshier and muddier. It was also home to murk-creating carp before they were eliminated in 1957. In 1962 the lake’s name was changed to honor Bend naturalist, Paul Hosmer.