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Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Of all the lakes in the Cascade Lakes area of central Oregon, few are as spectacularly diverse as Hosmer Lake. The lake has three distinct areas, all of which provide incredible views of nearby South Sister, Broken Top and Mount Bachelor.

The first area is the open southern end where you'll start your paddle. Here the lake is rather exposed and the area is often subject to strong winds.

The second area of the lake is the central channel. This is what truly distinguishes Hosmer Lake from other adventures, and it is what most visitors will remember. Encroaching stalks of tall bullrush completely obscure the banks, leaving only a narrow channel of crystal clear water. In this channel the wildlife of the lake has flourished for years. Red-winged blackbirds wrestle from stalk to stalk, and you may be lucky enough to see a great blue heron. If you look below the surface you'll see countless Atlantic salmon and brook trout effortlessly floating by.

After passing through the channel you will arrive at the third area, where the northern end opens back onto a shallow lake of beautiful emerald water and you can explore a small cascade just up Quinn Creek.

Interestingly, the lake's reputation for fly fishing began in 1957 when the US Department of Fish and Wildlife treated the entire lake with rotenone, a non-selective pesticicide that killed all of the lake's carp and other "trash fish." Rotenone occurs naturally in the stems and seeds of some legumes (Fabaceae), and has historically been used by indigenous people to catch fish.

Today, many consider the restocking of Atlantic salmon a success story in terms of human involvement with the lake. The lake is the only body of water west of the Mississippi where the fish have been planted successfully. However, in recent years the overwhelming popularity of the lake with paddlers has begun to take a toll on the lake's other wildlife. Spotting a river otter is now rare, and conversations with the Hosmer Lake Campground hosts in the summer of 2012 revealed that numerous species of birds which once frequented the marshy lake hadn't been recorded in over four years.

When visiting this pristine lake be sure to respect the native wildlife by keeping your distance and remaining quiet.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass

Pros

Clear waters. Stocked trout. Numerous inlets to explore. Views.

Cons

Only accessible in late summer. Popularity challenges wildlife.

Water Temperature

32.00 °F (0.00 °C)

Features

Campgrounds + Campsites
Backcountry camping
Fishing
Bird watching
Wildlife

Typically multi-day

No

Shuttle required

No

Site characteristics: Water

Lake

Portage required

No

Location

Field Guide + Map

Comments

09/01/2018
The views, the wildlife, the clear water-This place is amazing! There is a surprise around every corner. We got there around 10am and it wasn't too busy, but by the time we got back around noon, the parking lot was packed. So nice, we went twice!
09/21/2015
Great late summer trip. This is also a great spot for SUP enthusiasts.
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