Under the Stars near Portland

Northern Oregon Cascades: Coldwater Cove
  |  Gorp.com
Directions : Roughly 90 miles southeast of Salem. On Ore. 126 south of U.S. 20 (near Santiam Pass).
Information : (541) 465-6387.
Travel time : Approximately 3 hours.
Reservations : Yes. (877) 444-6777; www.reserveusa.com.
Fee : $12.
Open : Late May through Labor Day.

Crystal clear and ice cold, Clear Lake was created 3,000 years ago when lava flowing down from nearby Sand Mountain blocked the McKenzie River. Today the lake is the official source of the McKenzie, though Clear Lake itself is fed by an astoundingly blue spring that wells up at the base of a lava flow.

In fact, much of this lake is ringed by jagged lava flows, which makes for some fascinating explorations in a canoe, kayak, or rented rowboat (the rustic Clear Lake Resort rents boats). You can also hike through the lava flows beside the lake on the McKenzie River Trail. This trail continues more than 25 miles down the McKenzie, providing lots of hiking options. About one and a half miles downstream you'll come to the impressive Sahalie and Koosah Falls.

Coldwater Cove Campground is located on the side of the lake away from Ore. 126, and though some traffic noise does filter through the trees, it seems insignificant compared to the beauty of the setting. The medium-size campground is set beneath tall trees, and although there are a few campsites close to the water, these are hard to get. Most sites are up a fairly steep hill from the water.

To preserve the purity of the lake, no motors are allowed, and aside from the distant sound of traffic, all you're likely to hear while camping here is the thunking of oars and the keening of ospreys.


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