Waldo Lake is the largest lake in Lane County and is at 5414 ft. elevation. It is one of the purest bodies of water in the world and when it is calm you can see almost 100 ft. down. It has a maximum depth of 420 ft and is circled by the 22 mi. long Waldo Lake Trail No. 3590. The lake is contained in the Willamette Nat'l Forest and is bounded by the Waldo Lake Wilderness on the north, west and south sides. The trail itself is not in the wilderness so it is open to mountain bikes. The recreational opportunities in and around the lake are incredible. Whether you are boating, hiking, biking, horse riding, or in the winter cross-country skiing, there is plenty to explore.
You reach the lake from the Waldo Lake Road, FS#5897, north
off of HWY 58 just west of the Willamette Pass. There are three
Forest Service campgrounds on the east side of the lake that are
large and sometimes very popular. The mosquitos are a factor and
usually don't ease up until late in the summer. Don't be caught
without repellent or your outing can be a miserable experience.
These two photos taken 7/14/96.
Typical early morning lakeside scenery, 12k
Meadow filled with shooting stars close to S. Waldo Shelter, 37k
On 9/29/96 we rode our mt. bikes nw from the North Waldo Campground
into the burned area that reached the lake shore. The good news
is that the lake is at least for now largely unaffected by the
fires this summer. What will happen because of fire retardents
dropped in the lake and in the land around remains to be seen.
You could see land areas where the retardent had been dropped
because of the red dye that remains behind. The bad news is that
at least one mile of trail now goes through completely devastated
forest where all of the trees are killed. Several other stretches
suffered fire damage but some trees will survive, other areas
the fire stayed in the understory and most large trees will survive.
It is an unsettling experience to ride through an area so totally
changed. We had ridden this trail not 8 weeks ago when it was
lush and green. Now vast areas were charred and bleak. The majority
of area around the lake is mostly as it was, so this burn must
be seen in the context of a naturally occuring event (lightening
caused) that is part of the ecological life cycle of the forest.
Still, since so much of the NW forests have been human destroyed
it is sad to see such a beautiful area devastated, even if by
Four photos of varius burned areas along the trail northwest of North Waldo Campground, showing the range of damage. All taken 9/29/96.
Burned areas to the lake shore
Wide range of damage
Burned trees reflected in pond
|UPDATE: North shore trail and burned areas revisited, 7/19/97|
We revisited the sections of the Waldo Lk. Trail running through the burned areas NW of the North Waldo campground. The areas that were completely burned look much as they did right after the fire in 1996. Many areas are showing signs of regrowth, with beargrass and huckleberries resprouting every where. The many ponds and pools that dot the forest are like little green jewels in a sea of black and grey, including this one with pond lilies just starting to bloom. From a rocky vantage point on the NW shore you can look across the lake to Rigdon Butte and other extensive burns. From the North Shore campground the view remains unchanged, here looking south towards Diamond Peak, in the morning , and at sunset .
One change that boat-in and hike-in campers need to be aware of. The Forest Service has closed camping along most of the north shore and any islands along that area. These are fragile areas where a narrow strip of forest remains along much of the lake edge and it is appropriate to limit the impact campers would have.
With all the fire related damage in the Waldo Lake area it is now more important than ever for mountain bikers to respect the wilderness areas. In particular there is no excuse to ride off trail through the burned areas and contribute to the erosion damage that no doubt will occur. We would hate to lose our privilege of riding the Waldo Lake Trail because some choose to be irresponsible.
|REPORT:Waldo Lake: Science, Management and the Future Conference, Jan. 17, 1998|
We attended this conference, held on the UO campus and jointly sponsored by the UO Outdoor Program and the Willamette Nat'l Forest concerning plans for Waldo Lake. This conference was the result of recent studies about the decline of the quality of the lake and spurred on by the lack of a management plan to preserve this national treasure. The recent Charleton Butte Fire and the increased awareness of the fragile nature of this resource prompted Rep. Peter DeFazio to urge the Forest Service to begin the process of generating a plan to protect this unique place.
The conference was divided into two sections. The first half consisted of a panel of scientists who have been studying the lake and documenting it's decline. Two men, John Salinas and Dr. Doug Larson, have been studying the lake for quite a number of years, primarily as volunteers, and have published the report that inspired this conference. The have shown that the lake is steadily losing it's clarity and the chemical and biological make-up is rapidly changing. Dr. Gary Larson presented a report concerning the effects of introducing fish to this naturally fishless lake. Dr. Peter Nelson presented estimates for amounts and sources of nutrients polluting the lake. It appears that both the introduction of fish and the increased use of the area by visitors (and the waste they leave) is having the greatest effect on the lake. All the scientists agreed about the importance and uniqueness of Waldo Lake and spoke strongly for it's preservation and continued study.
The scientists also made some other interesting observations. They couldn't detect any immediate effects from the dropping of fire retardant in fighting the 1996 fire. They emphasised the abilities of the lake, simply because it is just so big and so clean, to dilute single event pollution. This in turn just emphasizes the seriousness of their observations, that the lake has made some major changes in composition over the last few years. They also addressed the controversy concerning motor boat use of the lake. They could find no dramatic increases in hydrocarbons in the water and even speculated that increased cars might be just as large a source of pollution as limited use by boats. Once again they stressed the ability of the large volume of the lake to dilute pollutants.
Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife stocked some 22 million fish in the lake from 1938-1991. They have since stopped but not without causing havoc. In their ignorance and single-minded devotion to providing sports fisheries they have tampered with the ecology of the lake. Prior to the introduction of fish the dominant creatures of the food chain were amphibians, primarily salamanders. The fish have replaced them and virually wiped them out by feeding on their larva and on certain plankton. This has resulted in changes in the balance of plankton in the water and allowed conditions favoring the growth of algae. The fish themselves also contribute wastes directly into the lake that add to the pollution. Even with all the fish introduced there never has been a good sports fishery at Waldo Lake so all these efforts were for nothing.
The inceased use of Waldo Lake, from 14,000 visitor/days in the late 60's to some 148,000 visitor/days in 1996 has also had it's effect. Human waste, from toilets and primitive campsites, seems to be reaching the lake. Studies show that phosphates are the limiting nutrient to algae growth in the lake and estimates were presented to show that human activies could be providing sufficient amounts to account for changes.
The second part of the conference consisted of management stategies for the Waldo Lake Basin. Al Hendricks, in charge of Crater Lake Nat'l Park, spoke about lessons learned in managing that unique large lake. In particular he urged not to compromise what was most important, the lake itself. He also acknowledged that his mission as a Nat'l Park manager (preservation) was simpler than the one for the Forest Service (multiple use). Gary Arnold, of Oregon DEQ, spoke about the possible inclusion of Waldo Lake as an "Outstanding Resouce Water". Rick Scott, WNF Ranger in charge of the area containing Waldo Lake spoke about management actions and plans for the area. Rep. Peter DeFazio has secured $500,000+ in funding for the FS to replace the ageing toilets and engineering studies are underway to come up with options. The FS has begun a two year process to generate a management plan for the Waldo Lake Basin. Scott emphasised the importance of Waldo Lake to the FS and acknowledged the need to protect it. He encouraged everyone interested to stay involved with the planning process and look for future meetings and conferences.