ODELL LAKE —
We were lucky to reserve one of the last campsites available at Odell Lake for this past weekend, and one of the last available on any Central Oregon lake it seemed.
On the other hand, we weren’t so lucky because Odell Lake currently has toxic algae blooms that make it dangerous to swim in the lake.
Still, there was nothing stopping my son, Mason, 12, and me from camping on the lake and enjoying the hiking trails that surround Odell, located off state Highway 58 and about 75 minutes from Bend.
Another benefit of camping at Odell is its close proximity to so many other lakes and points of interest, including Waldo Lake, Crescent Lake, Gold Lake, Salt Creek Falls, Diamond Peak and the Pacific Crest Trail.
The first day we set up camp at Sunset Cove Campground, then took to exploring our surroundings. A relatively easy hiking trail stretches about one mile around the southeast end of the lake from Sunset Cove to Odell Lake Lodge & Resort.
Along the trail a perch of boulders sits above the lake, providing the perfect spot to sit and watch the sunset across the 6-mile -long lake, with snow-covered Diamond Peak rising above its shores to the south.
The next day, a few fishing boats lingered on the lake, though not as many as when the water is clear. The algae gave the lake a green hue.
Odell Lake is home to lake trout, bull trout, rainbow trout, kokanee and whitefish. It is managed as a trophy lake trout fishery, and the last two state-record lake trout were caught there.
The U.S. Forest Service discourages anglers from consuming fish out of the lake during periods of algae bloom, and anglers should avoid areas of scum when boating.
We decided that day to venture out to other lakes nearby, where swimming was a possibility as temperatures would soar into the 90s.
Waldo Lake, located just northwest of Odell Lake off Forest Service Road 5897, offers lots of swimming, biking, hiking and paddling opportunities.
Known as one of the purest lakes in the world, Waldo Lake lies tucked in on the western slope of the Cascade Mountains — its clear, indigo water filling a basin scoured centuries ago by glaciers.
The lake is one of Oregon’s largest at 10 square miles, and the 20 miles of singletrack that encircles Waldo offers some of the best mountain biking in Oregon.
The mosquitoes are notorious at Waldo, so after dousing ourselves with insect repellent, we rode about 6 miles from Shadow Bay Campground along the smooth trail on the east side of the lake.
At the North Waldo Campground on the northeast corner of the lake, a few campers were enjoying kayaking and swimming in the clear, blue water. According to the U.S. Forest Service, on a calm day the visibility in the lake can reach 100 feet deep, giving the lake its indigo appearance.
After riding back to the trailhead, we were hot and sweaty and ready for a swim. While Waldo is a perfectly fine lake for swimming, we wanted to check out Crescent Lake on our mini lake tour.
Crescent Lake is just a 15-minute drive from Odell along Highway 58 and the Crescent Lake Highway. Many first-come, first-serve campgrounds surround its sandy shores.
We opted for the day-use area at Simax Bay, where lots of swimmers, stand-up paddleboarders and snorkelers were enjoying the clear, almost tropical water along the sandy beach.
It was my first visit to Crescent Lake, and I was impressed. So was Mason.
“It’s almost like Hawaii,” he said.
Not quite, but it was certainly an ideal setting on a hot summer day.
Farther out on the lake, water skiers and wakeboarders reveled atop the water, getting pulled by fast boats that pushed small waves onto the beach.
After a few hours of swimming and soaking in the sun, we drove back to our campsite at Sunset Cove for our final night of camping.
It’s pretty easy to get refreshed and reinvigorated in nature while sitting around the campfire on a mountain lake. And in our region, we have plenty of lakes from which to choose.