Cottage Grove Lake is the smaller sibling to Dorena Reservoir, both flood control projects that the Army Corps of Engineers completed in the 1940s. While the Row River backs up to create Dorena, the Coast Fork Willamette River feeds Cottage Grove Lake. Slightly farther south than Dorena, this lake is easier to reach but lacks some of the infrastructure that surrounds Dorena.
Three day use areas provide access to Cottage Grove Lake: Shortridge Park, Wilson Creek Park, and Lakeside Park. This latter receives the most traffic, perhaps because it is closest to Cottage Grove and the interstate. That said, compared to Shortridge and Wilson, Lakeside feels more exposed to the elements and is arranged more like a wayside than a park. Its acreage stretches out between the lakeside access road and the shore itself, creating a few distinct bellies for parking areas. Picnic tables, grassy areas, and vault toilets line the lakeshore, and a robust boat ramp sits near the entrance and the dam. Potable water is available here. There is plenty of space to lay out on the grass near the water, and wading in is facilitated by a somewhat precipitous drop away from shore (check Wilson Creek Park for a more gradual entry for the kids). So even if the place is more straightforward than Shortridge and Wilson Creek, Lakeside Park still has plenty to recommend it. If the weather is fine and the crowds are low, Lakeside is a great spot to enjoy the refreshing waters of Cottage Grove Lake, and it is closer and easier to reach.