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12 Best Lakes in Oregon

Having been an Oregon resident for quite a few years, I spent lots of time exploring its diverse and spectacular beauty. It includes everything from 360 miles of coastline with wild, driftwood-strewn beaches thrashed by powerful waves to over 100,000 miles of streams and rivers and more than 1,400 named lakes. The state’s sparkling lakes are spread throughout the state and include the deepest in the country. Whether you want to enjoy a getaway that includes freshwater for fishing, swimming, paddling, and more, these Oregon lakes are especially ideal.

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Crater Lake Crater Lake National Park in Oregon
Credit: Crater Lake National Park in Oregon by bigstock.com

Crater Lake

The country’s deepest lake with a depth of nearly 2,000 feet, there are few other lakes in the world that can compare to the intense sapphire hue of Crater Lake. Located in Oregon’s only national park, the often still waters reflect the mountain peaks that surround it like a dark blue mirror. It was created more than 7,500 years ago by the collapse of Mount Mazama and attracts many outdoor adventurers who come to swim, fish, take a boat tour, hike, and camp. It’s even a popular diving site with the chance to dive into a flooded volcano, explore lava formations, and swim among the fish. Between June and mid-October, when the 33-mile-loop Rim Drive is open, visitors can check out over 30 viewpoints at the lake’s edge.

Crane Prairie Reservoir Crane Prairie Reservoir
Credit: Crane Prairie Reservoir by Oregon Dept of Fish & Wildlife via Flickr

Crane Prairie Reservoir

Crane Prairie Reservoir is one of those true hidden gems. Nestled in the Cascade Mountains just over 40 miles southwest of Bend, it offers 24 miles of shoreline and some of the best rainbow trout fishing in Oregon, with catches that frequently exceed 10 pounds. Brook trout, whitefish, largemouth bass, and kokanee salmon also inhabit its waters. It’s heavily used by migrating waterfowl and attracts countless other birds who come for a fish feast, including a remarkable number of bald eagles and osprey that nest here each year. Sandhill cranes, great blue herons, great egrets, peregrine falcons, and around 180 other species can all be spotted too, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise. Head to Osprey Point for interpretive signs about the local fauna and to see the artificial osprey nesting platforms.

Wallowa Lake Wallowa Lake
Credit: Wallowa Lake by bigstock.com

Wallowa Lake

Located just south of the town of Joseph in the corner of northeast Oregon, Wallowa Lake sits at the doorstep of the state’s largest wilderness area, Eagle Cap. It’s surrounded on three sides by 9,000-foot-high mountains providing some of the most beautiful scenery for enjoying all sorts of activities in, on, and around the water. There’s a marina with watercraft rentals available, including pontoons, motorboats, rowboats, paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks. Fishing and swimming are popular too, and on land, there are hiking, biking, horseback riding, and wildlife watching can all be enjoyed.

Sparks Lake Sparks Lake off the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, Oregon
Credit: Sparks Lake off the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, Oregon by © Mkopka - Dreamstime.com

Sparks Lake

Tucked into the Deschutes National Forest, easily accessed via Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway 30 miles west of Bend, Sparks Lake covers 360 acres and boasts surreal turquoise water and a gorgeous background of South Sister Mountain. It’s a place of tranquility with boating limited to 10 miles per hour with catch-and-release fly fishing, the only type of angling allowed. There are also some great opportunities to hike, including the easy walk on the 2.5-mile Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail that begins near the boat ramp and winds through lodgepole pines and lava flows.

Hosmer Lake Bend, Oregon
Credit: Bend, Oregon by © Stevehymon | Dreamstime.com

Hosmer Lake

A hidden jewel in the Cascade Range, Hosmer Lake is a locals’ favorite about 20 miles from Bend along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. The secluded setting makes it ideal for nature enthusiasts who want to enjoy its beauty that includes spectacular views of Mt. Bachelor, South Sister, and Broken Top. Fly fishing with only the sounds of the birds and the gentle ripples along the shore can be enjoyed too. Big Atlantic salmon, brook trout, and rainbow trout are often seen in the shallow, clear water. The best way to experience it is to get out on a kayak or canoe.

Trillium Lake Kayaking in Trillium Lake, Oregon
Credit: Kayaking in Trillium Lake, Oregon by © Robert Crum - Dreamstime.com

Trillium Lake

Sitting beneath the shadow of snow-capped Mount Hood in the Mount Hood National Forest, Trillum Lake is an easy day trip from Portland, just an hour and 40-minute drive away. With Mount Hood reflected in its still waters, the lake is one of Oregon’s most photographed, and it’s a favorite for everything from fishing and boating to paddle boarding and swimming. Those who like to hike will find miles and miles of trails throughout the national forest, with the two-mile Trillium Lake Loop Trail popular with families, circling the lake and winding through the campground along the shore.

Paulina Lake Paulina Lake, Oregon
Credit: Paulina Lake, Oregon by © Svitlana Imnadze - Dreamstime.com

Paulina Lake

Located in central Oregon just over 20 miles from the town of La Pine, Paulina Lake is one of two crater lakes in Newberry National Volcanic Monument. With only snowmelt and rainwater filling it, the pristine water boasts a hypnotizing shade of blue while being a great place for swimming, boating, and fishing for kokanee salmon and rainbow trout. Hiking and camping can be enjoyed along its shores and there’s even a hot spring along the northern shoreline, accessed via hiking trail or watercraft.

Emigrant Lake Caspian Tern at Emigrant Lake near Ashland, Oregon
Credit: Caspian Tern at Emigrant Lake near Ashland, Oregon by © davidhoffmannphotography - Dreamstime.com

Emigrant Lake

Emigrant Lake is located in Southern Oregon, easily accessed from Ashland or Medford for those who want to enjoy a fun day trip although it also offers a lakeside campground with restroom and shower facilities ideal for weekend or longer getaways. All types of boating are popular here, from kayaks to speed boats for water skiing, while fishing for trout, bass, and crappie is possible too. What makes it more unique is that it has a 280-foot-long twin flume waterslide, perfect for summer thrills. This is a birder’s haven too, watch for Caspian terns, peregrine falcons, bald and golden eagles, turkey vultures, osprey, great egret, tundra swan, and much more.

Diamond Lake Diamond Lake, Oregon
Credit: Diamond Lake, Oregon by © Daniel Shumny - Dreamstime.com

Diamond Lake

Located in the Umpqua National Forest just 10 miles north of Crater Lake, Diamond Lake is a gem that can be enjoyed year-round, thanks to the paved roads that are sanded in the winter when visitors can enjoy snowmobiling and sledding. The warmer months are the most popular time to come, with trails for mountain biking and hiking as well as opportunities for boating and fishing. Boat rentals are available via Diamond Lake Resort and the Department of Fish and Wildlife keeps it well stocked with trout.

Waldo Lake Waldo Lake, Oregon
Credit: Waldo Lake, Oregon by College Outdoors via Flickr

Waldo Lake

Located in the Willamette National Forest in the Cascade Mountains, Waldo Lake is the second deepest in Oregon, behind only Crater Lake. It’s renowned for its purity, with strikingly clear water and more than 120 feet of visibility. Only non-motorized watercraft and vessels with electric motors are allowed, with a 10 mph speed limit, for a peaceful atmosphere best enjoyed by paddling a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. There are many scenic hiking trails in the surrounding Waldo Lake Wilderness and three developed, seasonal National Forest campgrounds.

Detroit Lake Detroit Lake, Oregon
Credit: Detroit Lake, Oregon by Wikimedia Commons

Detroit Lake

Located 60 miles east of Salem, Oregon’s capital city, Detroit Lake covers 3,500 acres, best accessed via the Detroit Lake State Recreation Area along the northeast shore. There are multiple campgrounds that surround the lake in the Willamette National Forest and there’s even a campground on an island right in the middle of the water itself. Fishing for rainbow trout is especially popular and there are two marinas in the town of Detroit for boat rentals and fishing supplies. All types of other water sports can be enjoyed, all with a fabulous view of snow-capped Mount Jefferson in the distance. 

Strawberry Lake Strawberry Lake, Oregon
Credit: Strawberry Lake, Oregon by Ben Amstutz via Flickr

Strawberry Lake

A high-elevation mountain lake in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Area, Strawberry Lake is located about 10 miles south of Prairie City in Eastern Oregon. It’s ideal for those seeking an unspoiled tranquil setting as it can only be accessed by hiking the Strawberry Lake trail. The entire route is 6.5 miles round-trip but it’s just 1.2 miles from the trailhead to the lake. Watch for the mountain goats on the mountainsides, deer that like to graze along the shore, and all sorts of colorful wildflowers in the summer, including lupine.

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