Download GPX file for this article
43.718888888889-122.04083333333Full screen dynamic map

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Waldo Lake Sunset

Waldo Lake is one of many cascade lakes in the Central Cascade region of Oregon. The lake is known for its crystal clear water.


  • Waldo Lake is Oregon's second largest body of natural water.
  • Waldo Lake is one of the clearest lakes in the world, on a bright day one can see over 100 feet in depth.
  • The chemical makeup of the water in waldo lake has been compared to distilled water.
  • The closest bodies of water to Waldo Lake are: Eddeeleo Lakes, and Quinn Lakes, and Six Lake Basin.
  • The forest around the lake is made up of Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Western Fir, and True Fir.
  • The lake area is: 6928 acres (9.8 sq miles).
  • The lake's maximum depth: 420 feet.
  • Average lake depth: 128 feet.
  • Length of shoreline: 21.7 miles.
  • The soil is made up of weathered volcanic ash, and boulders of basaltic bedrock.
  • This area may be subject to heavy mosquito infestation through early August.


Waldo Lake was effectively isolated from human activity until the late 1800s, when it appeared on a map prepared by the Surveyor-General of Oregon dated August 24, 1863. The U.S. Forest Service granted permission to A.R. Black for the construction of a canal on the lake’s natural outlet in 1905; Black later sold the rights to the project to F.N. Ray and Simon Klovdahl in 1908. Ray and Klovdahl intended to monopolize water rights to the entire Willamette Valley using their newly formed Waldo Lake Irrigation and Power Company. Projecting to supply enough water to irrigate 100,000 acres of farmland and to generate 40,000 “horsepowers” of energy, Ray and Klovdahl would’ve had a significant effect impact on the economic, social, and ecological status of the Willamette Valley had they succeeded. Financial and logistic difficulties led to the demise of the project in 1914, but not before the Klovdahl Tunnel was constructed on the lake’s southwestern edge. The tunnel has since been deemed a Natural Historic Place, and stands as a reminder of the first entrepreneurs set on manipulating the lake’s natural processes.

The Forest Service took jurisdiction over the Waldo Lake area in 1934; investigations of the lake’s limnological properties began shortly thereafter. A 13-mile-long paved road between Highway 58 and Waldo opened in 1969; since then, the number of visitors to the area has increased from a few hundred in 1967 to 170,000 in 1994.


Waldo Lake

Waldo stretches 9.6 km in length and 2.65 km in width, giving it a total surface area of roughly 26 km² and making it the second largest lake in the Oregon Cascades. Its maximum depth (128 m), at its southern basin, is considerably greater than its mean depth (39 m). It is 1,650 meters above median sea level. The lake and its watershed are within the Waldo Lake Wilderness Area, and included in the Oregon Scenic Waterway system.

Acclaimed for its intense blue color and transparency, Waldo Lake is a marvel to limnologists, biologists, geologists, and the public alike. Its water is incomparably dilute, chemically similar to distilled tap water. The combined effects of having a small watershed area (barely twice that of the lake’s total area), organically poor soils, and a heavily forested boundary result in a very low amount of nutrient flow into the lake. As a consequence of having low nutrient levels, phosphorous in particular, low rates of phytoplankton production typify Waldo Lake. This feature has changed since the 1950s, as human access and use of the lake has increased.

Flora and fauna[edit]

Roughly 80 percent of the Waldo Lake watershed is forested, namely with mountain hemlock, western hemlock, lodgepole pine, western white pine, Douglas fir, noble fir, true fir, and Engelmann spruce. Mountain hemlock, true fir, and lodgepole pine dominate the immediate area surrounding the lake. Soils are organically poor, highly permeable, and less than 2 meters deep: basalt bedrock is visible at many places around the lake.


Get in[edit]

Waldo Lake map

Waldo Lake is 58 miles southeast of Eugene. About 10 miles off of highway 58. Waldo Lake is surrounded by the Waldo Lake wilderness area, the northern border of Waldo Lake Wilderness is the southern border of the very popular Three Sisters Wilderness.

  • From the north (Portland, Eugene, Salem) -- Take I-5 South until Hwy 58 exit 5 miles south of Eugene, Travel on Hwy 58 East for 70 miles, About 40 miles past Oakridge take a left onto Waldor Lake Rd #5897. The first campground (shadow bay) is the first turnoff (about 6-1/2 miles down Waldo Lake Road). The last turnoff (12 miles down Waldo Lake Road) is to both Islet and North Waldo campgrounds.
  • From the south (Roseburg, Medford, Grants Pass)-- Travel north on I-5 until Hwy 58 exit towards Oakridge (this exit will be about 5 miles south of Eugene). Travel on Hwy 58 East for 70 miles, about 40 miles past Oakridge take a left onto Waldolake rd # 5897. The first campground is shadow bay (6½ miles down Waldo Lake Road) the last turnoff (12 miles down Waldo Lake Road is to both Islet and North Waldo campgrounds.
  • From the east (Bend, Madras, Redmond) -- Travel on Hwy 97 (south if from Bend Madras or Redmond) until the Chemult intersection with Hwy 58, then travel west for 55 miles on Hwy 58, 15 miles past Willamette pass turn right onto Waldo Lake Rd # 5897. The first campground is shadow bay (6½ miles down Waldo lake Road) the last turnoff (12 miles down Waldo Lake Road is to both Islet and North Waldo campgrounds.

By foot[edit]

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a well known trail that extends along the West coast of the United States, from Mexico to Canada. It passes through California, Oregon, and Washington State.

Fees and permits[edit]

Get around[edit]

Waldo Lake is the only major lake in Oregon with a shoreline trail good for backpackers.



  • Hiking. Miles of trails surround the Waldo Lake wilderness area, the most popular is the lake perimeter trail (22 miles).
  • Sailing. There is a 10 mph speed limit on the lake, so the majority of boats are sailboats, the lake is usually calm but its very common for wind to come from the NW. There are boat ramps at all three campgrounds.
  • Camping. There are 3 campgrounds on the east side of the lake.
  • Swimming. Swimming is possible in the summer months but lake temperatures stay below 65 °F (18 °C) in warm summer months.
  • Snowmobiling. Snowmobiling is popular during winter months when most of the lake is frozen. Waldo Lake Road is closed during winter months, as most snowmobilers park here and make the 8-12 mile ride up to the lakes campgrounds and trails.
  • Fishing. Waldo Lake supports several species of fish including rainbow trout, brook trout, and kokanee salmon. The best time to fish is generally in the early morning or the late evening hours. The best time of the year to fish is in early June or late October (though the lake is well documented as having "poor fishing due to water that is too pure to support fish".







Waldo Lake has 3 large campgrounds. All have boat ramps, water, bathrooms, and gravel trails. They are also handicapped accessible.

  • Shadow Bay Campground. Known for the bay that is the center of the campground. The bay has a sandy bottom and is good for swimming. On sunny days the water is usually a teal color and is comparable to water colors common at Caribbean beaches.
  • Islet Campground. Known for a point that extends 150 yards into the lake. There is a gravel trail out to the point where there are two benches with great views of the lake.
  • North Waldo Campground. The lake's most popular campground. This campground is close to the burn area from the 1996 Charlton fire which burned a large area on the north shore of the lake. North Waldo campground is home to the Waldo Lake Amphitheater where speakers are present about once a week during summer months.


Stay safe[edit]

Waldo Lake is well known for mosquitoes. A visitor should bring several bottles of repellent if visiting during summer months. Mosquitoes are common in most Cascade lakes. It's most important to wear insect repellent around the lake in the evening hours.

Go next[edit]

This park travel guide to Waldo Lake is an outline and needs more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. Please plunge forward and help it grow!