Share:

Waldo Lake

Central Oregon, Oregon

Start Exploring
Waldo Lake

Share:

Advertisement
  • View from Waldo Lake's North Campground with Diamond Peak (8,743') in the distance.- Waldo Lake
  • Waldo Lake near North Campground.- Waldo Lake
  • Waldo Lake near North Campground.- Waldo Lake
  • Waldo Lake near North Campground.- Waldo Lake
  • Waldo Lake.- Waldo Lake
  • Turquoise waters at Waldo Lake.- Waldo Lake
  • Waldo Lake.- Waldo Lake
  • Waldo Lake.- Waldo Lake
  • Above and below the water at Waldo Lake.- Waldo Lake
  • View from an island on Waldo Lake's northern edge.- Waldo Lake
  • View south from an island on Waldo Lake's northern edge.- Waldo Lake
  • Waldo Lake.- Waldo Lake
  • Waldo Lake.- Waldo Lake
  • Waldo Lake.- Waldo Lake
  • The view south toward Diamond Peak (8,743') with Mount Ray (7,002') at left.- Waldo Lake
  • View of the charred forest from the 1996 Charlton fire on Waldo Lake's northern shore.- Waldo Lake
  • Sunset view toward Waldo Mountain (6,357').- Waldo Lake
  • Waldo Lake sunset.- Waldo Lake
  • The view east toward The Twins (7,362').- Waldo Lake
  • The cove at Shadow Bay Campground.- Waldo Lake
  • Clear waters near Shadow Bay Campground.- Waldo Lake
  • The view looking west from Shadow Bay Campground.- Waldo Lake
  • A cove along the lake's northern edge.- Waldo Lake
  • Standing-dead trees left by the Charlton fire, viewed from Islet Campground.- Waldo Lake
  • The view looking west from Shadow Bay Campground.- Waldo Lake
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Clearest water in U.S.! Nearby camping options.
Cons: 
Mosquitos in early summer.
Advertisement
Region:
Central Oregon, OR
Congestion: 
Moderate
Site characteristics: Water: 
Lake
Parking Pass: 
NW Forest Pass
Portage required: 
No
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Water difficulty: 
Easy / Class A
Current Local Weather:
Advertisement
Paddle Description

Paddle Description

Team

Waldo Lake is the nation's shining example of an ultraoligotrophic high-mountain lake.  Say what?  Ultraoligotrophic.  Essentially, Waldo Lake has extremely clear and pure waters because its watershed is so small (roughly twice the area of the lake) and clean; the healthy forest delivers relatively few organic materials or nutrients.  In fact, the waters of Waldo Lake are so clear it that they set the world-record for depth of visibility at 157 feet.  The unique clarity of the water has been helped by a 2010 ban on gas motored boats, helping to ensure the lake's pristine future.

At 420 feet deep, the lake also happens to be Oregon's second deepest... a distant second to Crater Lake (1,943 feet deep).  The size and purity of the lake has luckily, but only narrowly, escaped development.  In 1908 the Waldo Lake Irrigation and Power Company was created with the vision of turning the lake into a reservoir for agricultural needs in the Willamette Valley.  A 500-foot tunnel along the lake's southwestern shore was permitted through the Forest Service and constructed with the potential to drain as much as 25 vertical feet of water out of the lake's natural basin.  Fortunately, the project's financial and logistical problems closed the business in 1914.  It wasn't until 1960 that the head-gates of the tunnel were finally sealed.

Beyond the statistics and history, Waldo Lake is an enchanting body of water to explore by boat.  Head out from North Waldo Campground to explore the lake's shallow opal waters and the numerous rocky islands that lay off its northern shore (sorry, both camping and making campfires on the islands are prohibited).  Further, if you're up for a longer paddle, head out from Shadow Bay Campground to Rhododendron Island, a popular backcountry camping spot where you might avoid the camping crowds on the lake's eastern shore.

Finally, it must be said that Waldo Lake is nearly as famous for mosquitos as it is for its pure waters, so don't forget to bring insect repellant.  It also doesn't hurt to avoid the hatches of early summer.  So if you can wait until August and September for your summer visit, you'll be glad you did.

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide + Map

Field Guide + Map

Download
Advertisement
Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(49 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(110 within a 30 mile radius)

Advertisement
Related Content

Related Content

Adventure Community

Adventure Community

Who Wants To Do It
126 Members
Who's Done It
57 Members
Submission by
Team
1275 Adventures Explored
1273 Adventures Published

Newsletter Signup

Join the Outdoor Project Community

Get access to essential planning materials and information for your next adventure. Take a few seconds to join the community. It’s FREE!

Free Field Guides + Maps

Post Updates, Tips + Comments

Organize + Track Your Adventures

Insider Detailed Info, News + Benefits

Custom Driving Directions

Recommended Campsites, Photos + Reservation Info