Hidden in the Oregon Cascades, this glacier-carved lake is clearly a beauty

Tim Buckley

Waldo Lake is among the clearest in the world, even more sothan Tahoe, and right up there with Crater Lake. Its hue on a sunnyday―whether best described as indigo, sapphire, cerulean, orteal―is a testament to its purity.

Ironically, it's the lake's lack of life that's largelyresponsible for its clarity. Whereas nutrient-rich streams feedmost lakes, snow runoff and rain are the principal sourcesreplenishing this glacier-carved lake. Water this free of matterreflects only the shortest wavelengths―namely, blue andviolet―hence the brilliant blue color.

But clarity isn't the lake's only claim to fame: At 10 squaremiles, Waldo is the second-largest natural lake in Oregon, plungingdown to 400 feet in some places. What's more, its great locationalongside the Pacific Crest Trail, more than a mile high in theCascades, makes it a recreational bonanza. Nearly two hours'driving time from Bend or Eugene, the lake is beloved by campers,mountain bikers, hikers, and boaters.

Boating is one of the best ways to take in a view of surroundingvolcanic peaks. Launch your craft from the lake's southernmostcampground, Shadow Bay, and the Three Sisters mountains march intoview (six sisters if you count the reflections). From North WaldoCampground, explore little islands and see picturesque DiamondPeak, southwest of the lake.

Mountain bikers can circumnavigate part of the lake along a21-mile trail. The same shoreline trail is pleasant for walking,too, from any of the lake's three campgrounds. Other hikes includea 5-mile (round trip) trek from Shadow Bay Campground to BettyLake, and another 5-miler from North Waldo Campground to RigdonLakes through a section of forest burned in 1996.

The best variety of fall color is found on the Black Creektrail. From Waldo Lake's west side, where Congress designated a39,200-acre wilderness area in 1984, the trail winds past gentleLithan Falls before descending 2,000 feet to the valley floor.While on the west side, also check out Klovdahl Bay, the site of a1908 diversion project for watering crops in the Willamette Valley.It never materialized; all that remains is a sealed concretecontrol gate over the tunnel.

TRAVEL PLANNER

WHERE: From Bend, drive south to Crescent on U.S. 97 (about45 miles) and turn right onto Forest Road (F.R.) 61. At about 7miles, turn left at the junction and drive another 4 miles. Turnright at State 58, continue over Willamette Pass (about 10 miles),and turn right at F.R. 5897 (3 miles past the summit) to WaldoLake. For Shadow Bay Campground, drive about 7 miles on F.R. 5897to F.R. 5896; for North Waldo and Islet Campgrounds, continueanother 4 miles to F.R. 5898.

CONTACT: Willamette National Forest: (541) 782-2283.

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