Tyson Gillard | 08.19.2013

I moved with my family to Bend, Oregon from Arlington, Virginia when I was 9 years old. It was a big move for a kid in the 3rd grade.  At first I remember vividly missing the lush green foliage of the Chesapeake Bay and wondering what this new so-called “high desert” environment was all about.  Then we made our first trip up to Central Oregon’s Cascade Lakes and any longing I ever had for my old outdoor stomping grounds on the East Coast completely washed away.

The Cascade Lakes: Sparks, Hosmer, Elk, etc., mean a lot to me. Even after my extensive travels, I consider them among some of the most beautiful places on earth. It’s here where my love of the outdoors became part of my identity. 

I fondly remember swimming in the shallow and “warm” waters of Sparks Lake, than canoeing out to the lake’s southern inlets with a feeling of being overwhelmed by the serene and impressive peaks that dominated the horizon.  Another favorite pastime was checking out the sailboats while playing on the beaches of Elk Lake and grabbing some huckleberry ice cream afterwards at the Elk Lake Resort.  There is the awe-inspiring turquoise water of Devils Lake and Little Lava Lake.  It was at Hosmer Lake where I was first introduced to wildlife, in the likes of great blue herons, red-winged blackbirds, river otters, rainbow trout, and black-tailed deer just to name a few.

In the shadows of South Sister, Broken Top and Mount Bachelor, and sculpted by their volcanic past, these lakes are truly special, absolutely stunning, and most certainly worthy of a visit. So, whether you’re there to hike, paddle, camp or simply relax on their shores, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!


On a side note, much has changed since I moved to Bend in 1989. Incredibly, back then Bend’s population was only 17,000 people.

While documenting the lakes last summer for the website, I had a very telling conversation with the campground hosts at Hosmer Lake South Campground.  A lovely couple from the area, they adamantly urged me not to tell more people about Hosmer Lake. They said it was too overrun with people.  And just like I’m hearing in many places I visit, they informed me that according to a few bird trackers, several bird species which used to inhabit Hosmer Lake haven’t been seen in over five years. I know that I haven’t seen an otter there since I was a kid. This is a trend that is going to continue, as we put more and more pressure on our natural areas. I, along with many of you I’m sure, can’t help but be concerned and saddened by this trend.

At Outdoor Project, we strongly believe in the connection and power of getting ourselves outdoors more often for natural world experiences.  We also believe you can love something to death.

As you go out into nature, it is a good reminder that we are all guests, and to act as such.  Particularly in regards to wildlife, they are not as resilient as we are, so as you explore Central Oregon’s Cascade Lakes please keep your distance, be quiet, and respect the place they call home.

More… have you had similar experiences?  We’d love to hear them.  Let us know our Facebook page.


Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.