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

26 09 2014
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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!

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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!

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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.





Kayak Surfing in the Columbia Gorge – Plus Salmon Spawning

10 10 2011

I have been working at Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe during 2011, and the irony is that I’ve been teaching beginners so I have not had much time to play in rougher conditions! Even on the days I tried we got skunked – calm weather prevailed.

But this past Friday I was able to get out with Neil Schulman on the Columbia River Gorge for what we locals call a “wind run.” The Columbia Gorge often gets winds in excess of 18 mph, sometimes even upwards of 40 mph. On these days, wind waves form, turning the river into a continuous set of wind-driven waves.

These waves are different from those at the ocean beaches because they have no rising depths beneath them – they don’t have big breaking faces. These waves generally are continuous rollers. On Friday, the biggest reached three feet, so it was a great day to learn. I’d never done this before!

Once out in the midst of the river you turn your kayak downwind and start paddling. We went from Stevenson, WA to the Wind River – it’s only about 5 miles. It’s incredibly forgiving. If you don’t catch a wave, it just passes beneath. If you get tired and want to paddle lazily, you just let these rollers roll along underneath you. If you want to surf, you have to keep up a good pace and then when a wave comes you sprint to catch it! It is a lot like interval training. Sometimes, you can surf from one roller onto the next and catch it, then another and then another! Fun, but exhausting!

We caught our breath by paddling up the Wind River to see if we could see salmon spawning. Sure enough! We got up to some riffles and dozens of Chinook and Coho were spawning! Always a breathtaking sight!

Here is a short video of the Chinook action on the Wind River…