Motors Allowed?
Easy / Class A
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.

Disappearing Lake is an occasional feature, and that is what makes the place so special. The lake forms in the spring, with a depth of 6 to 8 feet in places. As the weather warms it quickly disappears, leaving an area known as South Prairie in its place. Forest Service botanists speculate that the lake is formed when a lava tube freezes up, damming the creek that feeds the prairie. When the ice melts, the lake water quickly recedes. 

The area's bayou-like feel makes Disappearing Lake a unique destination. Paddlers can get up close to huge cottonwood trees surrounded by water, and driftwood floats in the lake and along its shores. Lodgepole pine and aspen ring the lake along with the Douglas fir that is more commonly found throughout the area. There are many opportunities to explore the features that become lake channels, our you can wander through the lava fields that surround the lake and become filled with crystal-clear water. In the summer, South Prairie stays lush much longer than most other meadows in the area. According to the Forest Service, South Prairie is host to the largest population of a rare iris species. 

The lake is easy to reach once you know where to go, and the easiest put-in for the lake is at the junction of Forest Service roads 66 and 6610, which is marked by the Forest Service sign that for South Prairie. The road to Disappearing Lake is beautiful in its own right, as it follows an ancient Mount Adams lava flow and occasionally offers glimpses of the volcano through the trees.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


Serene and beautiful. Unique forest "bayou" environment.



Water Temperature

32.00 °F (0.00 °C)


Backcountry camping
Bird watching

Typically multi-day


Shuttle required


Site characteristics: Water


Portage required



Nearby Adventures

Mt. Adams/Indian Heaven Wilderness/Goat Rocks, Washington
Mt. Adams/Indian Heaven Wilderness/Goat Rocks, Washington

Nearby Lodging + Camping


Attempted to make it up May 21, 2023 because there has been so much warm weather, but the road is still blocked about two miles from the forest road junctions. We helped another motorist dig out after becoming high centered in the snow. Another couple had planned ahead and brought XC skis and a SUP to tow the last two miles up.
Paddled on June 20th, both upper and lower sections were very full. Pollen rings on tree trunks show about 1-2 feet of water drop from peak, but still a great paddle this week!
2021 update - May17th - road's been open for over a week I hear from ranger at Trout Lake station. We went on May 17th and the lake is already way down. Still lovely, but limited area to paddle. More of the prairie/meadow exposed than I've ever seen this early. Seems that the road opened later than when the lake was at it's best. Always a difficult call. A lovely drive no matter what... just don't miss the very small Hwy 66 sign and arrow pointing LEFT just out of Willard, a little before you get to Moss Creek campground on Oklahoma Road. Ranger also noted that coming in through Willard via 66 the only way the road is open. As of yesterday, further past the lake it's still closed by snow.
If someone goes in later this year and the water is higher, post that info - it would then seem I was wrong and the lake was still filling. But by all all signs of willow growth, grasses and flowers, it sure seemed like it had already receded. Photo shows what is usually lake, by the parking spot on 66, that now is a meadow. The water has been 4-8 ft deep at that grassy spot other trips.
Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.

Oregon Field Guide is OPB's long-running local weekly TV series. The program covers natural resources, ecological issues, outdoor recreation and travel destinations across the Northwest region. This award-winning show is one of the most-watched local productions in the public broadcasting system.

Oregon Field Guide also extends the work it does in the field for the television series across radio and the Web, providing a greater degree of coverage.

Oregon Field Guide airs Thursday evenings at 8:30 p.m. and repeats Sundays at 1:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. In the Mountain Time zone of Eastern Oregon, the program airs at 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, and at 7:30 p.m. Sundays.

More content from Oregon Field Guide