Clear Lake Area

Image of Boater on Clear Lake

Clear Lake has a long history of being a popular recreation spot in the high Cascades. It was discovered in 1859 by a party of men who were searching for a route over the Cascade Mountains. They had followed an Indian trail down Hackleman Creek and after con­siderable scouting found Fish Lake and then Clear Lake.

Clear Lake is about 142 acres in size and lies at an elevation of 3,012 feet, with a maximum depth of 175 feet. It is one of the clearest and coldest lakes in the Cascades. It lies just off Highway 126 about 21 miles east of McKenzie Bridge. Clear Lake is excellent for canoeing and other non-motorized boats. Fishing is good at Clear Lake. Brook trout and cutthroat trout re­produce naturally in the lake. Rainbow trout are stocked annually.

Cold Water Cove Campground has 34 campsites and each site is equipped with a picnic table and campfire ring. Adjacent to the campground is the Clear Lake Resort at which cabins are rented and there is a grocery and tackle shop with a restaurant that sells meals during the recreation season, from about late May through the fall.

How did geological processes shape what you see at Clear Lake? Why is the water so clear and blue? What other diverse features exist because of a volcanic eruption 3,000 years ago? Take a walk along the Clear Lake Loop Trail to discover the answers as you walk through groves of ancient firs and across stark fields of lava to the source of the McKenzie River.

Visiting the Clear Lake area, you’ll discover a diverse landscape.

This landscape, though, is very different from what it was 3,000 years ago. At that time, there was no lake here, only a densely forested drainage dissected by a rumbling white-water river. About 1,000 B.C., Sand Mountain erupted. Lava flowed out toward the McKenzie River and burned the forest as it moved. When the lava reached the river and struck the cold water, it stopped. The McKenzie quickly backed up behind the wall of lava, and Clear Lake was formed. The forest that had lined the river banks was submerged under 120 feet of water. Remnants of these trees still stand today, incredibly preserved in the depths of the near-freezing lake. New ecosystems were created by the eruption, which provided habitat for new wildlife species. Fish species that had lived in the river adapted to life in the new lake. Different kinds of vegetation took root along the lake shore and in the cooled lava fields.

Learn more and download the Clear Lake Loop Trail Guide here

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At a Glance

Rentals & Guides: Linn County Parks  operates the Clear Lake Resort under special use permit. It features cabins, boat rentals, boat launch, and a restaurant.
Usage: Heavy
Restrictions: No motors allowed on lake
Closest Towns: McKenzie Bridge, OR
Restroom: available at campgrounds and day use sites
Passes: Some trails and day use sites require a Recreation Pass
Information Center: McKenzie River Ranger District

General Information


From McKenzie Bridge, OR, travel east on Highway 126 for 18 miles to Clear Lake.

General Notes:

Map of Clear Lake Area


Hiking at the Lake:


Boating Regulations & Boating Safety: Oregon State Marine Board manages boating regulations. Visit their website for boating regulations and safety information. They also have links to information about water levels in the reservoirs.

Fishing Regulations & Information: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife manages fishing regulations. Visit their website for information on fishing seasons and fishing licenses.

Reservoir and River Level Information: From the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Mountain Biking

Recreation areas with activity Mountain Biking:

Campground Camping

Recreation areas with activity Campground Camping:

Lake and Pond Fishing

Recreation areas with activity Lake and Pond Fishing:

Day Hiking

Recreation areas with activity Day Hiking:

Viewing Scenery

Recreation areas with activity Viewing Scenery:


Recreation areas with activity Picnicking:

Boating - Non-Motorized

Recreation areas with activity Boating - Non-Motorized:

Related Information

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Latitude : 

  Longitude : 

  Elevation : 
3,100 feet