Sparks Lake

Sparks LakeThis site will stretch your capability to focus only on wildlife. Approximately 370 acres of lake wetland are surrounded by another 360 acres of meadow, marsh, or stream wetlands. The spectacular setting - a memorialized favorite of the late, acclaimed, landscape photographer Ray Atkeson - is dominated by South Sister towering to 10,358' elevation, Broken Top to 9,175', and Bachelor Butte to 9,065'. Dark-green forests, bright-green meadows, and deep-blue skies will linger on your real or imaginary canvas. Look for the yellow-flowers of Indian pond lily in small ponds at the meadow's northwest corner.

Sparks Lake is located about 25 miles west of Bend off the Cascade Lakes Highway. The lake was named for "Lige" Sparks, a pioneer stockman of central Oregon. Except for possible early-day trappers, the first organized group of white men to visit the Sparks Lake area was a Pacific Railroad survey party led by Lts. R. L. Williamson and Phil Sheridan, accompanied by Dr. John S. Newberry, physician and scientist.

In seeking a pass through the mountains to the north, they traveled the Green Lakes trail in August 1855. They returned in September and evidently traveled by the Old Horse Lake Trail from its junction with the Green Lakes Trail and passed by Moraine Lake and on to Wickiup Plains. It is guessed that this group went past Devils Pass, Devils Lake, and followed the approximate route of the north Century Drive.

The lake was formed about 10,000 years ago when lavas from the Mt. Bachelor Volcanic Chain blocked the upper Deschutes River. Sparks Lake is a large, shallow, trout lake located on the northwest edge of Mount Bachelor, and is the first of the high lakes you see from the Cascade Lakes Highway west of Bend. The views of South Sister, Mount Bachelor, and Broken Top are breathtaking. Prior to 1997, Sparks Lake was a brook trout fishery and, although brookies may still be available, the lake's featured species will be introduced cutthroat trout.

Caution: Move cautiously in the meadow's tall grass to avoid narrow, concealed water channels. Cold water and deep holes in these "beaver highways" can make for a frigid or injurious plunge. Mosquitoes and biting flies are abundant in early summer, so bring repellant.

Both motorized and non-motorized boats are allowed on this body of water. There is a maximum speed limit of 10mph on this lake.
For more information go to Sparks Lake Day Use

General Information


From Bend: At Jct. of Third St. (Hwy. 97) & Greenwood Ave. (Hwy. 20), travel south on Hwy. 97 for 0.3 miles to Franklin Ave.
Turn west onto Franklin Ave. for 1.2 miles to Galveston Ave.  Turn west onto Galveston Ave. for 0.4 miles to Forest Road 46 (Cascade Lakes Hwy.) Turn south onto Forest Road 46 for 24.6 miles to F.R. 46-400.  Turn southwest onto Forest Road 46-400 for 1.6 miles to boat launch and campground.

Total Distance: 28 miles.  Estimated Time: 40 minutes


Lake and Pond Fishing

Sparks Lake covers 400 acres and has a maximum depth of 10 feet. Fascinating lava formations surround the lake. At several points along the shore, the lake's water disappears into the edges of the lava, producing exotic noises as the water drains out. The deepest area of the lake is the far south end.

Brook trout average 11 inches with a few to l 8 inches, but numbers are small. The main (northern) body of the lake is very shallow, and the extremely clear water requires long, light leaders and stealth.

A narrow channel about a half-mile long connects the north and south portions of the lake. Smaller fish are usually caught in the channel and larger fish in the lower lake. A 2.5-mile trail leading to the southern portion of the lake starts near the highway. This lower portion of the lake is almost completely surrounded by lava flows, making shore access difficult except by the trail. Sparks Lake is most easily accessed by boat.

Sparks Lake is open to fly angling only. Debarbing hooks helps reduce injuries to released fish. Streamers are frequently fished during the day and dry flies in the evenings, with bucktails and Mickey Finns popular for trolling. The brook trout often prefer the brighter colors of yellow and orange. Favorite patterns include tied-down Caddis in sizes 8 to 14X, Royal Wulffs, Royal Coachmen, Adams, and Humpys in sizes 12 to 18. Sometimes realistic nymphs are more effective. Mornings and late afternoons usually provide the best results, and during some late afternoons, there are often some good hatches.

At an elevation of 5,400 feet, access to Sparks Lake can be blocked by snow until quite late in the year, and like most of the high lakes, some of the very best fishing is right after ice-out. Some fly anglers will don snowshoes or skis in order to take advantage of early hungry trout.

Low water levels at Sparks Lake late in the season can cause difficulties for boaters. A good boat ramp is located at the end of the main road into the lake but may not be usable during low water. Always consult the current ODFW before fishing for fishing regulations.

What To Expect

  • Vehicle Access: Sparks Lake is located about 25 miles west of Bend off the Cascade Lakes Highway (Forest Service Road 46).
  • Fishing Access: Campground and trails
  • Boating Regulations: See boating regulations.
  • Fish Species Present: Cutthroat trout & brook trout
  • Physical Characteristics: Size: 779 acres; Depth: 1'- 7'; Elevation: 5450 feet'
  • When/How to fish: Get a weekly fishing report from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Popular Fishing Methods: Fly Fishing by boat. There is a 10 mph speed limit.
  • Bait/Lure Fishing Method:
  • Fly Fishing Methods: Troll or still-fishing
  • Insect Hatch/Flies to Use: Streamers, dry flies, bucktails, finns, wulffs, and coachmen. Hatch under construction.
  • Camping Information: Soda Creek Campground 

Source: “Fishing Central Oregon-Third Edition”, 1998. Geoff Hill, Brooke Snavely, and Raven Wing. Sun Publishing, 716 NE 4th Street, Bend, Oregon.

Viewing Wildlife

Scan the lakeside meadows for grazing mule deer or black-tailed deer, and for the low flight of northern harrier. The osprey, red-tailed hawk, bald eagle, golden eagle, and common nighthawk may circle or swoop overhead. Look for old snags pitted with trunk cavities that invite tree swallow or mountain bluebird. Search willow thickets for yellow warbler or MacGillivray's warbler. The surrounding forest holds three-toed woodpecker. Quietly study the crystalline water in small creeks that braid the meadows for a darting brook trout. Stream gravel provides excellent spawning habitat for adult fish from the lake, and young fingerlings stay here before moving to the lake. River otter, California gull, and great blue heron may be observed in or near these waters.

Other Attractions:

  • Approximately 1/2 mile west is Katsuk Butte Research Natural Area, a high-elevation, undisturbed, entirely forested cinder cone. Mountain hemlock, subalpine fir, and lodgepole pine are the common trees, but whitebark pine, western white pine, Pacific silver fir, white fir, and ponderosa pine show in minor portions. It's possible habitat for the elusive boreal owl.
  • The ADA-accessible Ray Atkeson Trail near the Sparks Lake boat ramp provides great wildlife viewing opportunities.

Featured Wildlife Groups:

  • Amphibians/Reptiles
  • Birds of Prey
  • Shore/Wading Birds
  • Songbirds
  • Upland Birds
  • Waterfowl
  • Hoofed Mammals
  • Weasels/Skunks
  • Squirrels/Rodents
  • Bats
  • Fish
  • Butterflies
  • Wildflowers


  • Forest - Mtn. Hemlock / Subalpine
  • Forest - Lodgepole Pine
  • Wetland - Engelmann Spruce
  • Wetland - Lake
  • Wetland - Stream
  • Wetland - Marsh
  • Wetland - Meadow
  • Rock - Outcrop
  • Rock - Cliff
  • Rock - Talus

Boating - Motorized

10 MPH speed limit is enforced for boating on Sparks Lake.

Boating - Non-Motorized

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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