Clear Lake is fed by snow and rain run-off that passes through miles of volcanic rock generally from the Sand Mountain Alignment located due east of the lake. The natural filtered water coming into the lake is virtually pure. And, being a few degrees above freezing, it doesn't harbor much in the way of algae.
My journey with Clear Lake begins with a hike around to the northeast end of the lake where the trail brings you to a remarkable treasure called The Great Spring.
Great Spring is where amazingly clear and extremely cold water emerges out of the rocks. Great Spring is the source of the McKenzie River. The pool looks just as clear and blue as the Caribbean waters, but incredibally much colder! The temperature of the water hovers just above freezing with an average of 34 to 39 degrees year round.
The Great Spring lies a few hundred feet due east of Clear Lake. The waters quietly emerge through the pouris volcanic rock and trickles a short distance into the lake. It is said that for the water to journey from the surface near the Sand Mountain Alignment landscape to the Great Spring, it can take anywhere from 2 to 10 years to filter from one end to the other. That means the water I was touching that day, fell as snow or rain up to 10 years prior to me being there...wow! Such a time frame is hard for me to comprehend.
(This is Sand Mountain from the west shore of Clear Lake.)
To help understand this phenomenon, I contacted Bart Wills, a geologist with the Deschutes National Forest. He explained that the more dissolved minerals the water picks up while filtering under ground can determine the time-frame in which the water has taken to get from a point (A) to a point (B).
(There is a more complicated scientific answer, but for the sake of this blog, I am able to accept the simple mineral content explanation from Bart Wills.)
I then asked Mr. Wills, "So if record rains fell on Sand Mountain today, will it take at least two years for the water to "flood" out of the Great Spring?"
Again, Mr. Wills answer, I liked. He explained that the law of gravity does not apply to water when underground. Record rains can fall and the excess water will filter through and fill aquifers, but a rush of water is not likely to happen at the springs exit, much like you cannot force more water through a straw than what the straw can handle. The "flooded" aquifer will find additional exits through cracks in the earth and the excess water will exit from "seasonal" springs throughout the region.
Clear Lake was formed when lava flows from the Belknap Crater and Sand Mountain Alignment blocked the nearby streams. A lake was born.
Clear Lake is constantly fed from the Great Spring. Other streams enter the lake, but dry up during the summer.
Oregon has an astonishing eleven lakes with the name "Clear Lake," But there is no question as to which lake lives up to the name.
Clear Lake has an average depth of 526 feet and the deepest spot being 1,240 feet. The trail around the lake is just over 5 miles.
The waters of the lake are so clear, it is hard to dicipher where the water ends and land begins. In the photo above, the log is half in and half out of the water.
The lake trail winds you through sloped lava flows with many lake vista's and volcanic structures.
The McKenzie River Trail, which includes the Clear Lake loop, is a popular destination for mountain bikers. The day I hiked the Lake Trail, twenty-two bikes passed me.
The Lake Trail offers mesmerizing vista's around every corner and autumn provides a kaleidoscope of color.
Vine Maples decorate the shoreline with delicate detail.
Fish Creek is the major creek that flows into Clear Lake, but it dries up early summer.
If the crystal clear blue water isn't impressive enough at Clear Lake, then check out the sunken forest.
When lava flows blocked the stream's outlet, a live forest was drowned. Remanence of this sunken forest is clearly visible today, and is Clear Lakes greatest natural attraction.
You can rent a boat and drift across the sunken forest "frozen" in time.
Clear Lake is reported to be one of the most exceptional freshwater high elevation dive spots in the United States. Check out this website to see some incredible pictures taken of an underwater dive at Clear lake:
The Three Sisters volcanoes are visible from the far north shore.
Mount Washington can be seen looming above the conifer forest from the lake's west shore.
Clear Lake offers fishing, hiking, diving, biking, camping, relaxing and discovering nature at its best. I can see why so many make Clear Lake a yearly destination.
I took this picture of two ladies enjoying the warm peaceful autumn day on the lake. I later met up with the lady on the (right) and she introduced herself as Blanche from Hillsboro, Oregon. Blanche has been coming to Clear Lake with her husband to go fishing every summer for the past 40 years. As a child she learned to fish and has loved the sport at Clear Lake ever since. When Blanche's husband died in 1993, her daughter Pat and son-in-law Bruce continued to bring her to the lake every summer.
Blanche said, "I am now 87 years old and still love to go fishing and can still get in and out of the boat pretty well. My children love to watch me do all my getting fishing gear ready while sitting at the picnic table at the cabins and even tie my own hooks."
Meeting Blanche gave the lake a personal touch. To her, Clear Lake holds many years of fond family adventures and memories. Blanche told me that this may be her last year coming to the lake. I asked her why? She answered saying, "I might not make it another year, you know I am getting up in age, my knees are not as good as they use to be." I told her, "Don't think of what tomorrow might bring, but enjoy what today has given." She smiled.
Later on the trail, I ran into Pat and Bruce and their friendly dog Lucy. Pat told me that her mother has been saying..."its her last year"...for the past ten-or-so years. I have a feeling as long as there are fish to catch, Blanche will have "ten-or-so" more years ahead of her to go boating on the crystal waters of Clear Lake. I am excited for Blanche, knowing that Pat and Bruce faithfully bring her to the lake every year for fishing and family time.
On the far south shore, the stillness of Clear Lake takes on a transformation unlike any other river. The quiet clear water begins the journey towards a torrent of thundering rapids and enticing waterfalls. The McKenzie River comes alive, and a dancing river is born.