Waldo Lake: Clear Water Paddling and Huckleberries

26 10 2021

There’s a magical lake high in the Oregon Cascades. Waldo Lake. It’s so pure, you can see down 140 feet! And since there are no powered boats allowed, it is the same experience as hundreds of years ago. Sailing or paddling along its shores is a truly memorable experience. In fact, just sitting by the lake, listening to the water lap at the shore can cure a multitude of urban stresses.

Speaking of stress, we picked a weekend early in August when there happened to be a number of wildfires in the area. On the way up each of us, in different vehicles, experienced smoke so thick we considered turning back. But our experiences told us to push on, because depending on the wind, it just might be good. And voila! In the last 5 miles of the state highway to the turn-off, it cleared up and was beautiful!

Jessie, Joel and I met up with Bill and Julie and their kids. We had two campsites, both walking distance to the water. Many of the car camping sites at Waldo Lake have significant real estate! Some have an eighth of an acre.

A four-minute walk away were Bill and Julie and their kids. They all brought their kayaks as well.

The smoke was still very close. As it turned out, mornings and mid day were always clear, but then in the afternoon, the wind switched and smoke would to start to cross the lake. Toward day’s end, one couldn’t see the other side. Then at night it would switch revealing a star studded sky.

Sunsets were spectacular!

The following day, after breakfast, we set off to cruise along the north shore, with the goal of finding the headwaters of the Willamette River. We had beautiful skies, warm weather, clear water, and yes, we found the treasure: Huckleberries!

Pictures say it all! Considering that there were wildfires not 10 miles away, we totally lucked out! If you ever come to Oregon to paddle, put Waldo Lake on your checklist. FYI, there are dozens of wild campsites on the west side of the lake with guaranteed privacy!





Crooked River, Oregon: Skunk Near Miss!

31 12 2020
A bend in the very crooked Crooked River

In late September 2020, with Oregon still engulfed in wildfires, I was able to find a spectacular smoke-free area for camping. Oregon’s Crooked River is a National Wild and Scenic river system. It has a scenic drive and scenic bikeway running along its length. It wends its way along a forested canyon, into Prineville Reservoir, and then continues out of the reservoir until it empties into Lake Billy Chinook. The section I visited is below the reservoir. It has some 10 campgrounds sprinkled along its length.

I looked at all of them, and picked out the biggest site I found, Chimney Rock Campground #1. Wow. Set at the end of the campground, it offered complete privacy as it had no neighboring sites. It was capable of handling six tents. And it had 100 feet of riverside real estate. Still, privacy was no concern, as being late September, there was only one other site used.

It was super peaceful. I settled down to read a novel. It wasn’t long before the wildlife came back to its routine. I saw kingfishers, dragonflies, red-tailed hawks, ducks, a family of otters, robins, blue herons, and more. It’s also known to be home to mule deer, bald eagles, ospreys and golden eagles. Redband Trout, re-introduced steelhead, and rainbow trout are sought by anglers.

Here’s a photo of my tent…which will help my explanation of my encounter with a skunk in the night!

I have several tents. They all have “bathtub” style floors, with some solid material running up from the bottom to form the ‘bathtub.’ This one has a pretty low tub wall. When the weather is fine, I skip the tent fly so I can star gaze. On this night, I fell asleep by about 10. A few hours later, I awoke to sounds of scuffling outside. Something scratching about. Usually, these sounds are from deer walking to the water for a drink. I switched on my headlamp. But, similar to using high beams in a snowstorm, I only saw the screen on the inside of the tent. My head was just at the bathtub wall. So, I put the light up against the screen. And immediately I was horrified! What did I see? Not more than six inches from my head, black fur with white stripes! Skunk! Now, it cannot kill me, but it sure can ruin my trip! There must have been four of them. I kept perfectly still. Best not move! Incredibly, they were not bothered in the least. They just kept on sniffing around, seemingly in search of a meal. Unimpressed by me, they ambled along on their way.

The next morning I took it very lazy, and made a mid morning breakfast, and read some more. I packed up, and then spent some time fishing. I caught lots of weeds, had three fish get away, and caught one very juvenile landlocked steelhead. This river was once home to steelhead which made their way all the way up from the Columbia, but dams caused extinction. They have been reintroduced and a small population is expanding in the area, but they cannot reach the Pacific.

I highly recommend!





Waldo Lake Oregon – Water Doesn’t Get Any Purer Than This!

26 09 2014

paddling,waldo lake,oregon,camping,kayaking oregon

Paddling over the indigo waters on a calm morning.

 

There are a lot of breathtaking places to paddle in Oregon. Many places with jaw dropping views. But only one, Waldo Lake Oregon, has such pure water and easy back country kayak camping – with no power boats to interfere with the serene experience!

Waldo Lake is unique in Oregon. It’s 22-miles around, making it the 2nd largest natural freshwater lake in the state. It’s natural – not a reservoir. It’s high elevation – 5,414ft. No power boats. Just human powered craft, like canoes, kayaks, or row boats, and when the wind picks up – you’ll see sailboats plying its waters. The water is so pure Waldo Lake set the world’s deepest visibility record – you can see down 157-ft! It is almost as pure as distilled water.

I organized a group of 12 friends (and Cameron, a 3-year old happy camper) who convened at Waldo this past weekend. Waldo is renowned for its primitive camp spots on the west side of the lake. But this weekend, dry conditions caused the Forest Service to issue a ban on campfires outside established campgrounds.

 

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Katie, Christian and Cameron

We needed a fire to cook a salmon for six – because my friend Daniel Fox, who was paddling from Victoria BC to San Francisco, had stopped in Astoria, Oregon and just caught a nice Chinook salmon on the way! It had to be cooked on the fire. So, we settled on camping at North Waldo Campground. It was almost full when we showed up – only three campsites – and we needed all three! It was totally last minute. We all had packed compactly for wilderness camping. Once the car camping decision was made I pulled out everything. The barbeque, the tiki torches, the tablecloth!

north waldo campground,waldo lake,camping,hiking,oregon,kayaking,canoeing

Happy hour watching sunset!

The salmon turned out delicious and there was plenty for all. Simple – cooked in olive oil wrapped in tin foil and some dill added. On the side were veggies cooked in tin foil. Really yummy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Folks at site #32! Waldo Lake awaits.

Morning all awoke at a different pace. At campsite we were up by 7:00 and ready go to by 9:00 – but a visit over to George & Kristi’s site revealed they’d just awakened when I got there at 9:30.

My breakfast was just oats, berries and yogurt…Kristi’s was more like home! Either way breakfast in the woods is better than at home!north waldo campground,waldo lake camping For me, anyway.

 

 

 

 

View west with kayaksIt was time to set out on the lake. There is much to explore. There is “the burn” on the north side, full of coves and warmer water.On the west side there are primitive camping sites for miles. There is a trail to a lookout, up 2,000ft, where views of Central Oregon can be glimpsed. And halfway down the west side of Waldo Lake, Rhododendron Island. It’s a good spot to land your craft for a picnic!

The water of Waldo Lake is “dramatically ultra oligotrophic” meaning crazy clear with little organic matter. Chemically speaking, it’s more pure than distilled water. At an elevation of 5,414 feet, it’s so high it has no incoming streams. The water comes from snowmelt or springs. As such it’s so pure that a food chain is not supported. We saw only four seagulls and certainly no ospreys.

Words cannot really describe the clarity or color of Waldo Lake’s waters!

dramatically ultra oligotropic,waldo lake

Shadow, some 60 feet down. In deeper water the blue darkens.

Out in the middle of the lake, the water can appear purple-indigo. Look up ultramarine blue.

I took a photo of myself from under the water.Rod from underwater - Copy

We experimented with taking underwater photos from all sorts of angles.

 

 

 

 

kayaking waldo lake,paddling oregon,camping oregonOne such photo was taken by Bill Baxter from underneath his kayak! It makes the surface kind of look like blue mercury!

It was a glorious day! Our group split up. Some, led by April, set out to kayak to a trailhead and climb some 2,000 feet to an abandoned fire lookout. From there you can see the lake plus all of the Central Cascades Region of Oregon including Diamond Peak, the Three Sisters Wilderness, and Bend.

The rest of us paddled south to have a picnic at Rhododendron Island. On the wind protected side of the island it was HOT!

 

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Bill shows Cameron a frog!

After lunch we dared the chilly waters. Bill seemed less concerned than most and was out there with mask and camera quickly.

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You can see across as well as down

 

It took me forever to finally get all the way in the water. I should have just dove in!

Julie’s thermometer said it was 66 degrees. That is not terribly cold!Half Underwater

We all got together for a Mexican “bar” meal back at the campsite. It was a make-your-own burrito affair.

We set out the ingredients, then one would wrap up in aluminum foil & melt/heat over the fire!

Katie gets Cameron ready for the water

Katie gets Cameron ready for the water

It was a good reward after the hikes, paddling and picture taking!

We all agreed we will come back next year.

NOTE!! Waldo Lake is full of biting bugs/mosquitoes until mid August.

Plan your trip for late August or September. We think the best way to experience Waldo Lake is to camp outside the established campgrounds on the west side of the lake. There are plenty of gorgeous sites. But if your preference is for car camping, we recommend making a reservation – we managed to get the last three sites! Waldo Lake is unusual in that it gets more busy after Labor Day – and that’s because everybody’s avoiding the mosquitoes.





Cabins at The Cove Palisades at Lake Billy Chinook 2012

13 11 2012

13 friends rented all three cabins at The Cove Palisades State Park on Lake Billy Chinook the weekend of November 10-11!

The Cove Palisades State Park closes in October but its cabins are available for rent all winter long. The cabins feature a living room with kitchenette and futon and a rear bedroom. Heated and with running water and with lovely views, they each sleep five. One can paddle the lovely canyons of Lake Billy Chinook from then until winter sets in.

Why go? For us human-powered recreation junkies, the thought of summer on the lake makes us cringe. Party boats, wave runners and speed boats ply the lake, their noisy exhausts reverberating off the canyon walls. There are over 100 boat slips at this marina alone! But once closed, the lake is very pretty in its quiet solitude. Further, if you reserve all the cabins, you can have the lake just for you and your friends!

I’m a happy camper with my morning cup of Joe!

This weekend, we drove over snowy Government Camp pass – in fact it was snowing on and off the entire way to the destination. Laura and I had made plans for Friday dinner – we’d grill steak on the cabin’s propane grill, and enjoy baked potatoes and salad as well as grilled veggies. These turned out delicious!

Later, Jessie, Mike and Joel, our cabin-mates for this weekend, showed up. Then we saw April and Jim. I drifted off to sleep – and yes Laura and I were up first in the morning.

Laura and Jessie by the fire.

The cabins share a five-foot diameter fire pit with a lake view. Saturday morning, we shared a fire to warm us up and had a breakfast. Jim and I each brought bins of wood.

As the sun rose and began to warm up the area a bit, Jessie, myself, Mike and Joel gazed upon the lake.

Although gray early on, it was to be a beauty of a day!

Soon it was time to paddle. Thirteen paddlers. Rod, Jim D., Jim H., Jessie, Joel, Laura, Becky, Bob, Andrea, Kristi, April, Mike and George. Getting a group of that size going doesn’t always happen in a snap.

Andrea and April almost ready…but some cars are still on roof racks!

Laura and I get our boats down to the dock early,
and she is ready to go. But as I look back toward the parking area, there are lots of kayaks remaining on roof racks! It’s going to be a while.

Last to go are Kristi and George – so Mike and I help things along by carrying their boats down to the docks.

Today is Becky’s first paddle! So we pay extra attention to her needs.

Jessie lends a hand at the dock, stabilizing Becky’s boat, which she rented from Portland State University’s Outdoor Program.

The forecast calls for temperatures in the mid 40’s and light winds, less than 10 mph. Once on the water the sun comes out and I began to believe I was over dressed! I didn’t bring a baseball hat, figuring it was too chilly. Lucky for me Kristi loaned me a sun hat she brought along.

The dominant features of Lake Billy Chinook are sky and canyon walls. The sun’s arc across the sky changes the glow and colors along the walls.

Jim D. about to head into Crooked River Canyon.

I’m not a geologist, though I took Geology 101 in college. What I can say is that examining these canyon walls tells a story. It is a story of violent volcanic activity taking place over millions of years. Layer upon layer of rocks and ash reveal the episodes. Basalt columns formed as the rocks cooled – some dozens of feet thick. Other layers are softer – ash from distant eruptions. Rain and thermal warming/cooling cracked the structures, sending rocks, sand and boulders down the sides.

We search for a lunch spot. One drawback of this lake is the few sandy takeouts. Mostly the drop off from lake shore goes straight down. We find a narrow area to disembark, but most of us just take lunch in our boats.

During lunch we see a potential change in weather dark clouds back toward the cabins, so most of us head back. But Bob, Jim D., George and April continue upstream.

Once back on shore, we retreat to our cabins for snacks, naps and getting ready for dinner.

It’s not long before dark! Tonight we have a great party by the fire pit. No shortage of firewood! The stars are out! It’s dark enough to easily spot the Little Dipper and the North Star. The Milky Way glides overhead.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings!





Head to Timothy Lake when Website Says “Closed 4 Season”!!

30 09 2011

Yes, my friends! There is gold to be had at the end of September at one of Mt Hood’s most trodden camping spots – Timothy Lake. THE time to go is after Labor Day, when the campgrounds start to close, the weather remains summer like, and it’s nice. This lake is to be avoided in mid-summer as K-Mart campers and RVs with noisy generators are everywhere.

This week I had a couple days off mid-week, and the weather forecast called for 80-degrees and summer up there. I checked the websites and they all reported “closed for the season” for the campgrounds.

I knew one can still camp in the closed campgrounds, but you have to walk your gear in past the gate. Still, I remembered one year I went at precisely when they were supposed to be “closed,” yet one remained open. That turned out to be the case this time! One, only one, campground, called Oak Fork, remained opened. And it only had one other camper!

I foraged for wood left behind by other campers and the effort paid off big time. That, plus setting up my hammock, and the wonderful weather made for a nice time. This treasure trove of wood made for a blazing inferno!

I also tried out my newly purchased Kokatat drysuit. Way freaking cool! It was 100% dry. Soooo much better than the NRS drysuit it replaced. I was really dry when I took it off.

The weather was superb, the stars bright, and what a night it was.

The picnic table, hammock and all the kitchen gear made for a sumtuous chicken sandwich cooked on the grill, plus a nice side salad!

The camp set up. Everything needed!





Diamond Lake Oregon, neighbor to Crater Lake

24 08 2011

Had three days off in a row for the first time since June. This fell right in the midst of the annual Perseid meteor showers-I hoped to view. So rather than heading to one of my usual favorite overnight outdoor spots, I studied the map and decided to go somewhere new – Diamond Lake. But I didn’t realize I’d be a stone’s throw from Crater Lake National Park!

Diamond Lake is in south central Oregon, five hours distant from Portland. It lies beneath9,184 ft Mt. Thielsen to the east and 8,375 ft Mt. Bailey westward. To get there, head to Roseburg, Oregon, and then drive east on SR 138 all the way to Diamond Lake. It passes through the National Wild & Scenic North Umpqua River.

Along the way, you pass evidence of violent geologic events. SR 138 passes through layer after layer of ash fall, exposed when the road was cut. In many places, it’s 40 ft thick, and the forest above clings to its edge – falling away with each passing winter. So, my arrival was further delayed by numerous projects fixing the road. The area is in its infancy – in geologic terms. Even extinct Thielsen is less than 300,000 years old. Crater Lake was formed only 7,000 years ago.

Never having been to Diamond Lake, the campground named Thielsen View seemed tempting. But it was not to my liking at all. It was heavily forested, full of RVs, its campsites weren’t on the lake and worse, infested with biting mosquitoes! I decided to head for the main campground on the other side of the lake. Once there, at Diamond Lake Campground, I felt a bit better. Although large and a bit over provisioned for me, it offered lakeside sites, sun, and since it was more windy, only had a few biting bugs. I’m usually turned off by campgrounds with lots of facilities. But here, as it’s so busy, the place needed to be that way to handle the groups. Looking at my map, I realized it’s only 15 minutes from Crater Lake National Park.

And, it offered lakeside views of Mount Bailey, nice paddling, full-blooming wildflowers, and generously-sized campsites.

Mt. Thielson

With perfect weather, wonderful views and a lovely lake I didn’t have much to complain about! Only to figure out what to do the following day.

Having realized that I was so close to Crater Lake, I figured I just had to get down there tomorrow. But now, time to enjoy the late summer afternoon paddling around on Diamond Lake!

I headed up the north shore past myriad of campsites nestled along the lakeside. What a sight, to have two beautiful peaks in view! Little mentioned is that this lake is a no-wake zone. So although motorboats abound, there’s no noisy water skiing or wave runners to denigrate the peaceful setting. It’s a decent paddling spot.

Around a bend, I encountered Diamond Lake Resort. It reminded me a little bit of Old Forge, NY, a town in Adirondack State Park, where I first paddled a canoe.

Like the 1950’s

 

The resort has a hotel, restaurant, beach, cabins, and a marina filled with rental boats and sailboats. Kiddos played along the beach, building sand castles.

Along the outside of the marina, sea gulls gathered on a floating log boom.

Everything seemed so peaceful…all playing, enjoying the scenery.

 

 

With the sun setting behind Mount Bailey, I headed back.

I settled down to a campfire and feasted on fresh salad of mixed greens, plus garlic mashed potatoes, and grilled bratwurst. Much to my disappointment, it was a full moon evening, meaning the meteor showers were utterly bleached out by the moonlight!

I looked forward to checking out Crater Lake National Park in the morning!