One of the United States’ most geographically diverse states, Oregon is home to numerous rivers, streams, waterways, and lakes, with some of the deepest, widest, clearest, and most spectacular lakes in the country. From the clear, deep blue waters of Crater Lake to the spectacular setting of dense forests surrounding the aptly named Lake of the Woods, Oregon has a breathtaking body of water in every corner of the state.
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Surrounded by the magnificent Rogue River National Forest in southwestern Oregon's Jackson County, Applegate Lake has long been hailed as an angler's paradise with an average depth of 85 feet. The cold water is home to a wide variety of fish, including coho salmon, chinook, rainbow trout, and steelhead trout. Situated 23 miles southwest of Medford, Applegate Lake is named after pioneers Lindsay and Jesse Applegate, who bravely crossed the mouth of the Applegate River while paving the Southern Emigrant Trail of the 1840s. Applegate Lake's hiking trails boast breathtaking views of the hauntingly beautiful Collings Mountain, Kinney Mountain, and Stein Butte, which surround the lake.
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The Cascade Lakes is made up of nearly 100 natural lakes scattered along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway in Central Oregon, which begins in Bend and winds its way through the mountains for 66 miles. The lakes are best seen while you are backcountry camping and hiking or on leisurely day hikes. Either way, you’ll get breathtaking views of Broken Top, Mount Bachelor, and South Sister lakes along the way. Some of the lakes were created by glacial gouging and others by volcanic action under the glacier, and they offer an array of outdoor recreational activities such as fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, water-skiing, and wakeboarding. Land-based activities include hiking, mountain biking, camping, backpacking, and relaxing on one the many beaches along the lake's shorelines.
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Resting on the crest of the Cascade Range in southern Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the country with a depth of 1,942 feet. Created over 7,500 years ago when the top of Mount Mazama collapsed, Crater Lake is renowned for its clear, deep blue water, which you can see from one of several hiking trails around the park. The centerpiece of Crater Lake National Park has two islands within the lake that you can visit and explore on sightseeing boat tours during the summer between June and September. Visitors to the lake can enjoy swimming, scuba diving, and fishing on the lake, as well as camping, hiking, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing in the surrounding Crater Lake National Park.
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4.Upper Klamath Lake
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Stretching for more than 30 miles, Upper Klamath Lake is the most significant freshwater lake in the State of Oregon with a surface area of nearly 25,000 hectares. Nestled in the Klamath Basin, the massive lake rests 4,133 feet above sea level in south-central Oregon and is surrounded by the majestic mountains forested hills of the state's Southern tourism region, which include the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex in the north. The lake is a popular destination for boating, fishing, and paddling as well as wildlife watching in the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, which has been protecting the marshes and waters of Klamath Lake for the past 90 years.
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Conveniently located in Oregon's Willamette Valley tourism region, Detroit Lake is a 1,400-hectare freshwater reservoir that stores water for the cities of Detroit and Salem and offers an array of excellent recreational activities, which include boating, camping, kayaking, and swimming. Constructed in 1953 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by damming of the North Santiam River, Detroit Lake has a maximum depth of 440 feet, which fluctuates as much as 25 feet per day. As such, the lake has specially constructed boat ramps to cater for this fluctuation. Detroit Lake has two state lakes resting on the north side of the reservoir, the Detroit Lake State Park and the Mongold State Park, as well as seven different campgrounds dotted around the perimeter.
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An enchanting gem in the heart of Oregon's attractive Lincoln City, the less-than-sweetly named Devil’s Lake is the 685-acre freshwater lake that was formed by a blockade of dunes from a nearby beach in approximately 14,000 BC. Situated in a unique location on Oregon's Pacific Ocean coast, Devil’s Lake is connected to the ocean by the D River and offers excellent fishing for coho salmon, grass carp, and rainbow trout. Surrounded by riparian life, creeks, beaches, wetlands, forests, and oceans, Devils Lake is an area of outstanding biodiversity, and nature-lovers will delight in the wealth of bird species. You might see coots, common grebes, cormorants, egrets, and various species of ducks.
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One of two lakes that are situated in the collapsed caldera of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument within the Deschutes National Forest, East Lake is a 420-hectare lake and a popular recreation destination. The higher of the two lakes in the crater, East Lake has beautiful blue-green water and a sandy beach where visitors come to relax, picnic, and swim. You can also enjoy a variety of water-based activities such as boating, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing for brown trout, rainbow trout, and Atlantic salmon. The snowmelt and spring-fed lake is home to the East Lake Campground at the very south end of the lake, which features 29 sites, boat ramp, and a lovely beach.
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Nestled between two mountain ranges and two national forests, Emigrant Lake is surrounded by some of Oregon's most beautiful scenery and offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities, from hiking and camping to boating, fishing, and swimming. Created by the impoundment of Emigrant Creek in 1924, the lake is part of the Talent Division of the Rogue River Basin Project, and it stores flood waters to irrigate the 15,000 acres of farmland in the region. The horseshoe-shaped lake is encircled by the Emigrant Lake Recreation Area, which features a campground, a 280-foot twin flume waterslide with showers, a large picnic area, and a concession stand.
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9.Fern Ridge Lake
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The largest of thirteen flood control reservoirs in Oregon's Willamette Valley, Fern Ridge Lake has 9,000 acres of water and is the premier recreational destination in the region. Situated just 12 miles west of Eugene in Lane County, Fern Ridge Lake has several well developed public recreation areas that offer an array of activities such as boating, camping, fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing. Constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1941 for flood control, irrigation, and water storage, Fern Ridge Lake is fed by the Long Tom River, which has several small coves and inlets that make for tranquil fishing spots and places for relaxing with a picnic.
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Fishhawk Lake is a private reservoir that was developed exclusively for luxurious lakefront living with spectacular natural scenery. Built in 1967 as a focal point for a deluxe residential development near the quaint towns of Birkenfeld and Mist, Fishhawk Lake blends the beauty of nature with a small lake, a network of hiking trails, and an array of bird and wildlife for residents to enjoy. The lake is stocked with a variety of fish and provides excellent fishing, as well as other water-based activities such as canoeing, kayaking, paddle boating, row boating, and pontooning. Many of the residences have private swimming holes and their docks.
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Once one large lake that was separated into three separate lakes by blocked drainage from snowmelt runoff on the Newberry Flow, the Green Lakes are aptly named for their deep teal coloring, which you can admire from the Green Lakes Trail. Set directly between South Sister and Broken Top, the tiny Lower Green Lake is just three acres and a great fishing spot for native brook trout that call the lake home. Middle Green Lake is much larger at 83 acres, while Upper Green Lake covers 10 acres, both of which are surrounded by low grasses and spectacular beds of wildflowers in season. Upper and Middle Green Lakes also offer excellent fishing with stocks of brook trout and rainbow trout.
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12.Hells Canyon Reservoirs
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The Hells Canyon Reservoirs are made up of three bodies of water that share the Snake River canyon with eastern Oregon and mark the border between the two states. One of southwest Idaho's most beautiful locations, the three reservoirs were constructed to provide hydroelectric power, irrigation, and water supply to the region. They also provide a wealth of recreational activities for both land and lake-lovers alike. The largest of the three reservoirs, the Brownlee Reservoir spans 15,000 acres with a depth of nearly 300 feet and is the most popular fishing hole in the state with an abundance of catfish, crappie, bullhead, perch, pumpkinseed, rainbow trout, sturgeon, and sunfish. The other two reservoirs are the Oxbow Reservoir and the Hells Canyon Reservoir, which is the last and farthest north of the three Hells Canyon reservoirs.
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Stretching for 24 miles and straddling the border of Oregon and Washington, Lake Celilom (also known as Dalles Lock and Dam) is a beautiful and serene body of water situated about an hour and a half east of Portland. Boasting breathtaking views of majestic Mount Hood, the lake boasts several recreational facilities that provide an array of activities for visitors, including boating, fishing, swimming, wakeboarding, and water-skiing. Created by the impoundment of the Columbia River two miles east of The Dalles, Lake Celilo’s shoreline has nine recreational areas with camping sites, boat ramps for motorized and non-motorized watercraft, marinas, and picnic areas with grills and tables.
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14.Lake of the Woods
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Lake of the Woods is a natural lake spanning over 1,250 acres in the combined Fremont-Winema National Forest and one of southern Oregon's most popular recreation destinations. It has been attracting nature lovers and lake lubbers for more than 100 years. Named for its spectacular setting of dense forests and woodlands, Lake of the Woods is home to many private residential homes, summer cabins, and campsites, and it is an idyllic location for all types of water sports, including canoeing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, tubing, sailing, swimming, and water-skiing. Large sections of the shoreline are made up of wetland areas that are home to a remarkable variety of waterfowl, endemic birds, and mammals.
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Extending from northeastern Oregon to southeastern Washington, Lake Wallula is a 64-mile long open, glassy lake that offers an array of recreation and outdoor fun. Built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a multi-purpose reservoir for the area, the lake is named after Oregon Senator Charles L. McNary. It features no less than 22 recreational areas around the perimeter, which offer boating, camping, fishing, swimming, water skiing, wakeboarding, and seasonal hunting. There are also campgrounds, public boat launching facilities, group picnic areas, and remote beaches to enjoy as well as the 3,500-acre McNary National Wildlife Refuge, which protects large numbers of resident and migrating waterfowl.
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Located southeast of the town of Burns in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (MNWR), Malheur Lake in Eastern Oregon is one of nature's wonders and a renowned breeding ground for several species of water-loving birds. Technically known as a “playa” lake, which is a temporary body of water covering an ancient dry lakebed, the lake’s water levels are highly variable and can range from being nearly empty to full. The lake offers excellent fishing for a variety of species such as common carp, mountain whitefish, and mottled sculpin, which also provide food for the 250 species of birds that use the lake and the surrounding Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as a regular migratory stop.
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Named after Francis Xavier Matthieu, one of the early French pioneers of the Oregon Territory, the Matthieu Lakes consist of North Matthieu Lake and South Matthieu Lake and can be reached by the famous Matthieu Lakes Trail, which has delighted hikers with splendid scenery for many years. Located in the Three Sisters Wilderness, the two lakes are surrounded by mixed forests of fir and hemlock, low bush huckleberries, and beautiful wildflowers in season. The lakes are entirely different. North Matthieu Lake is irregularly shaped and relatively shallow with about six acres of surface area, while South Matthieu Lake is less than half the size of North Matthieu Lake. North Matthieu Lake is stocked with rainbow trout and offers excellent fishing, while there are no fish in the southern lake.
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Resting in the dramatic shadows of Diamond Peak in the Deschutes National Forest, Odell Lake is an award-winning trophy trout fishing lake, as well as a U.S. Forest Service-managed fishery and recreational reservoir. Located an hour's drive southwest of Bend, the 3600-acre lake has a depth of nearly 300 feet and is open seasonally from late April to the end of October. There are three well-developed campgrounds around the lake’s 13-mile shoreline, along with boat ramps, beaches, and an array of water sports such as boating, canoeing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, sailing, windsurfing, and waterskiing. The six-mile-long lake has many bays, coves, and inlets to explore and escape with a picnic basket.
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Located in the Mount Hood and Gorge Tourism Region of Oregon, Olallie Lake is a breathtaking snowmelt lake renowned for its incredibly clean water. Nestled off the beaten track at the end of a gravel road in the Olallie Lakes National Scenic Area, Olallie Lake is set against a backdrop of dense woodlands and the majestic volcanic peaks of Mount Jefferson set deep within the Mount Hood National Forest creating awe-inspiring views. No motor boats are allowed on the lake, but visitors can enjoy canoeing, kayaking, paddle-boating, fishing, and tubing as well as mountain biking, hiking, camping, and birdwatching on the shores. The lake has an abundance of brook trout, rainbow trout, and salmon, and is a popular fishing destination.
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One of two lakes in the caldera of Newberry Crater and part of Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Paulina Lake is the larger of the two lakes at 620 hectares and a favorite spot for enjoying recreational activities such as canoeing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, and fishing. The lake is a no-wake lake and is home to an abundance of brown trout and kokanee salmon, as well as blue chub, rainbow trout, and tui chub, making it an ideal fishing destination. Set within the Deschutes National Forest, the 1,531-acre lake can be reached by a 35-mile drive southeast of Bend, which takes you through miles of unique and unusual volcanic formations. Mount Newberry is a shield volcano that was formed by centuries of repeated fluid eruptions, the last of which was about 1,300 years ago.
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21.Sky Lakes Wilderness
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The Sky Lakes Wilderness is made up of three separate basins that were defined by volcanic action and carved into shape by glaciers thousands of years ago and are currently home to more than 200 lakes. Twenty-seven miles long and six miles wide, the Sky Lakes Wilderness in Southern Oregon encompasses 113,590 acres within the Cascade Mountain Range and is crossed by the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail from north to south. The northernmost basin is known as the Seven Lakes Basin, while the most southerly of the three bowls is the Blue Canyon Basin. With the exception of large Fourmile Lake at the south end, all of the lakes within the Sky Lakes Wilderness can only be reached via hiking trails as motorized vehicles are not permitted in the Wilderness.
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Located in the Deschutes National Forest, Suttle Lake is a favorite recreational lake with a privately operated resort and spa as well as three rustic US Forest Service-managed campgrounds along the southern shore. In addition to comfortable accommodations that have spectacular views of the towering Cascade Mountains, the lake offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities such as boating, canoeing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, sailing, and fishing. Motorized water sports such as waterskiing and tubing can also be enjoyed on the lake, boat slips can be rented by night or by the season, and visitors can swim at day-use areas along the shore and from the resort’s private beach.
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Aptly named for its shape, Crescent Lake is a 4,008-acre lake that rests on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains in the Deschutes National Forest in Klamath County. Formed by a glacial deposit thousands of years ago, Crescent Lake offers a range of recreational activities from boating, canoeing, kayaking, and swimming to hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking around the perimeter. The lake is a popular fishing destination with an abundance of kokanee salmon, mountain whitefish, and various types of trout. It has 12 miles of sandy beaches and wooded shoreline that make for excellent camping, picnicking, and fin with the family.
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Resting at 5,400 feet above sea level in the Cascade Mountains, Waldo Lake is Oregon’s second largest freshwater lake. Named after Oregon native John B. Wald, the beautiful natural alpine lake has been attracting visitors for more than 100 years. Many people come to enjoy fishing for trout and salmon, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and camping along the shores of the lake, which feature over 200 campsites. Nestled within the Waldo Lake Wilderness Area between the cities of Bend and Eugene, the 6,300-acre Waldo Lake boasts an impressive 420-feet of water with visibility exceeding 100 feet, making it the second deepest natural lake in Oregon.
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Wickiup Reservoir is an angler's paradise. The largest of the Cascade Lakes, which include 12 other lakes, the 11,000-acre lake provides some of the most exceptional fishing in Central Oregon with an abundance of fish species from brown trout to whitefish. Named after the Native American word for dwelling or shelter, Wickiup Reservoir is a true outdoor utopia for outdoor recreation with activities ranging from boating, paddling, and swimming to hiking, mountain biking, camping, and wildlife watching. The shoreline of the lake features six developed campgrounds on Wickiup Reservoir with modern restrooms and running water, and the lake shores boast some of the best wildlife viewing areas in Central Oregon with a variety of nesting and migratory birds, including the Peregrine falcon.
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25 Best Lakes in Oregon
- Applegate Lake, Photo: Courtesy of nblxer - Fotolia.com
- Cascade Lakes, Photo: Courtesy of Christopher Boswell - Fotolia.com
- Crater Lake, Photo: Courtesy of srongkrod - Fotolia.com
- Upper Klamath Lake, Photo: Maciej Olszewski/stock.adobe.com
- Detroit Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Rex Wholster - Fotolia.com
- Devils Lake, Photo: Courtesy of thecolorpixels - Fotolia.com
- East Lake, Photo: Courtesy of kvdkz - Fotolia.com
- Emigrant Lake, Photo: Courtesy of jakezc - Fotolia.com
- Fern Ridge Lake, Photo: Courtesy of kvdkz - Fotolia.com
- Fishhawk Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Maksim - Fotolia.com
- Green Lakes, Photo: Courtesy of fotofrol - Fotolia.com
- Hells Canyon Reservoirs, Photo: Courtesy of Venera - Fotolia.com
- Lake Celilo, Photo: Courtesy of Siegfried Schnepf - Fotolia.com
- Lake of the Woods, Photo: Courtesy of papinou - Fotolia.com
- Lake Wallula, Photo: Courtesy of Leslie - Fotolia.com
- Malheur Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Michal - Fotolia.com
- Matthieu Lakes, Photo: Courtesy of Nneirda - Fotolia.com
- Odell Lake, Photo: Courtesy of vlorzor - Fotolia.com
- Olallie Lake, Photo: Courtesy of mehaniq41 - Fotolia.com
- Paulina Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Krystal - Fotolia.com
- Sky Lakes Wilderness, Photo: Courtesy of kvdkz - Fotolia.com
- Suttle Lake, Photo: Courtesy of estivillml - Fotolia.com
- Crescent Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Joshua Rainey - Fotolia.com
- Waldo Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Ray Whittemore - Fotolia.com
- Wickiup Reservoir, Photo: Courtesy of Will - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Mark - Fotolia.com