Before I go into describing how beautiful Waldo Lake actually is, I want to first say: NEVER GO TO WALDO LAKE IN JULY. Unless you love mosquitoes. LOTS AND LOTS of mosquitoes. Hot and humid summers in Missouri don’t even compare to the summer mosquito haven that is Waldo Lake in July. They swarmed our car, they feasted on our ankles and ears and everything in between. We thought burning flames and smoke would keep them at bay — instead, I think our fire just signaled them to tell their friends and family that it was feasting time.
We arrived in tank tops and shorts to complement the nice weather. Luckily, just before leaving Corvallis, Sylvan suggested we bring warm clothes just in case the weather changed. Within minutes of arriving in “Mosquito park”, we were both dressed as if a cold front had blown in. We covered as much skin as we could possibly stand to in the summer heat.
And they loved the taste of our Burt’s Bee’s insect repellent. I think it actually was an attraction for them. A neighboring camp had a can of commercial heavy duty tick and mosquito spray that they hesitantly (maybe because we ran over to their camp like a couple of loons) offered to share with us. I closed my eyes when I grabbed the can just to avoid making eye contact with the ingredient list. I know if I would have seen what was in there, I would have put the can down and left, uncoated and vulnerable. Or maybe not. They were that bad.
So mosquitoes aside, I will describe the rest of our trip as if it were a leisurely weekend adventure in mid-September — because outside of mosquito land, it was paradise.
The sky was bright blue and reflected down on the clear blue water. There were only a handful of campers and boaters out, maybe a dozen total around the entire lake — which makes sense now knowing what Waldo in July feels like. But is was still nice to have the clear lake virtually to ourselves. The only movement in the water came from the light breeze, otherwise it was still and clear. We could see straight to the bottom of the beautiful sand- and rock-covered lake.
Waldo Lake is Oregon’s second largest natural body of water, with Crater Lake being the first. Classified as an ultraoligotrophic high-mountain lake due to it’s clarity and elevation, it is one of the clearest lakes in the world. On a bright day one can see over 100 feet in depth. Since I cannot locate a depth chart of the lake, I am not sure how far down exactly we could see. However, while crossing the lake from one side to the other, we could see the white sand and glistening rocks sitting so still on the lake floor for quite some time.
Sylvan brought along his folding kayak. I had no idea he was going to bring it, so it came as a surprise when I saw it in our trunk as I was packing the car. Up until this point, I just heard stories about this kayak. They were mainly from his family, usually asking about it and whether we have used it. Sylvan made it sound like it was broken or didn’t work very well.
Well, come to find out, he just had really high standards for this kayak. The way it was fashioned doesn’t quite live up to his foldable kayak standards. The kayak worked just fine. It was fun to put together, like a big jigsaw puzzle. His engineering brain lights up for things like this though and he comes up with ideas on how it can be built better. I realize now what he means when he previously talked about it being “eh.” It was super heavy and there were way too many pieces to keep track of. This particular kayak was actually made in 1988, so the frame design has since dropped about 30 lbs in weight and the newer models are easier to assemble.
I think once it was all put together, he gained a new appreciation for it. After years of it being stored away in bags, he was excited to have it together again and was even more excited to get out on the water.
Plus, it was truly romantic, and he sure knows how to romance. :)
It is a tandem kayak, which can be a challenge for two people who both like to guide. I think it was the best paddling work we’ve had to date! Ten points to teamwork!
There was an island across the lake from where we camped. It didn’t show up on the map, or at least we couldn’t identify it on the map… We docked and enjoyed the view while the sun continued its journey west.
The island was a little gem of a place with a lookout bench and picnic table or two. What looks like me enticing Sylvan with a little bit of leg in the photo below was actually him calling out to me to show off my newly acquired ‘squito art. The little island seemed free of mosquitoes (or just not enough to notice..) so we explored the island and enjoyed the view for as long as the sun allowed.
There was a forest fire in 1996 that left the northwest corner of the island bare of needles and branches. It is a sight to see. Forest fires are always a site of reflection, appreciation, and overall awareness of our relationship with the land. What’s left on that side of the lake is a large chunk of charred white trunks and black snags interlaced with fresh green brush.
I would most definitely recommend a fall trip to Waldo Lake. It is easy to access and the scenic drive makes it all the better, with multiple State Parks along the way.
From Corvalls, you just head south on 5 to Eugene, in which you will then head east on OR-58 towards Oak Ridge (exit 188 Oakridge/Klamath Falls). Drive 60 miles east and you will turn left onto NF-5897, which is clearly marked as Waldo Lake Wilderness. Enjoy!