Clear Lake was formed nearly 3,000 years ago when a lava flow disrupted the course of the McKenzie River. Currently the headwaters of the McKenzie, this 148-acre lake is primarily fed by snowmelt from Mount Washington and surrounding peaks, water that can spend decades working through subterranean spaces before resurfacing in creeks and at the springs near the north end of the lake. This water is only a little warmer than snowmelt, and the cold temperature and spring fed course conspire to reduce suspended matter, organic or otherwise, keeping this lake so remarkably clear.
Search the bottom of the lake for the submerged, 3,000 year-old forest remains that still stand upright and preserved in the frigid water. Or paddle out onto this quintessential Cascade lake for remarkable views of Three Fingered Jack and Three Sisters. If you didn’t bring your own watercraft, you can rent a rowboat from Clear Lake Resort. In addition to a wild brook trout population, the lake is regularly stocked with rainbow trout.
Two boat ramps offer access to Clear Lake, the busiest being the Clear Lake Resort ramp. Alternately, launch at the Cold Water Cove ramp to avoid crowds. Both ramps charge a day use fee, and motors are not allowed on the lake. The Cold Water Cove Campground offers plenty of camping and direct access to the lake. Clear Lake Resort offers lodging and camping as well.