The 8 Biggest Lakes in Oregon

Written by Taiwo Victor
Published: April 28, 2022
Image Credit CSNafzger/Shutterstock.com
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While Oregon isn’t the land of 10,000 lakes which is a title that Minnesota currently holds, the Water Resources Department estimates that there are around 1,400 named lakes in the state, including those in the desert, the Cascade highlands, and even around the Pacific coast. If you’re looking for the best lakes in the United States to explore various recreational activities, Oregon has plenty of lakes! The state’s greatest lakes cater to every water activity. Fun locations to get in the water may be found all around Oregon, from lakes close to Portland to Crater Lake in southern Oregon. But of these beautiful lakes, which ones are the most massive? Below, we will explore the 7 biggest lakes in Oregon and other fascinating facts.

The 8 Biggest Lakes in Oregon

8. Wickiup Reservoir

Wickiup Reservoir Oregon
The second-largest reservoir in Oregon is Wickiup Reservoir.

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Wickiup Reservoir is Oregon’s second-largest reservoir, spanning 10,334 acres or 45.32 km². It is the biggest Cascade Lake and is situated 60 miles (97 kilometers) southwest of Bend. Like neighboring Crane Prairie Reservoir, Wickiup Reservoir was constructed by damming the Deschutes River. The United States Bureau of Reclamation constructed the Wickiup Dam in 1949 for the “Deschutes Project” and the “Pringle Falls Experimental Forest” with the original purpose of education and research.

The dam at Wickiup Reservoir is 2.6 miles (4.2 kilometers) long. The reservoir receives and drains its water to and from the Deschutes River. With an average depth of 20 feet (6.1 meters) and some channels reaching 70 feet (21 meters), fishing is quite prominent in the lake, particularly for brown trout. Wickiup Reservoir is the best lake in the state for brown trout fishing. The trout found in the area weigh an average of 5 to 8 pounds (2.3 to 3.6 kg), although some can weigh up to 20 pounds (9.1 kg).

7. Crater Lake

Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake is one of the largest lakes in Oregon.

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One of the most famous lakes in Oregon, Crater Lake is also one of the state’s largest lakes, with a surface area of 13,180 acres or 380.7 km². Crater Lake is the 9th deepest lake in the world, the deepest in the United States, and the second-deepest lake in North America, with a depth of 1,943 feet (594 meters). Crater Lake is commonly considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and the most gorgeous crater lake. Its waters are among the world’s clearest, and the lake itself is one of the world’s most unique sights. It’s a crater lake, like its namesake, formed by the collapse of Mount Mazama 7,500 years ago.

Because there are no holes or streams through which water can enter, the lake contains no other debris or salt deposits, allowing the water to maintain its rich hue. As no river flows into or out of the lake and evaporation is offset by rain or snowfall, the lake replaces its water completely every 250 years. Hiking, biking, fishing, and cross-country skiing are among the many recreational activities accessible at Crater Lake and its adjacent park regions. Campgrounds and lodges are open to guests throughout the summer.

6. Summer Lake

Summer Lake Oregon
Summer Lake covers 25,000 acres.

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A big, shallow alkali lake in Lake County, Oregon, Summer Lake covers 25,000 acres (102 km²) at high water. It’s about 15 miles (24 kilometers) long and 5 miles (8 kilometers) wide, and its marshes are home to a variety of birds and other species. On his trip into Central Oregon in 1843, explorer John C. Fremont discovered and named the lake. The water levels in Summer Lake fluctuate considerably, and on hotter days, it is almost completely dry. The Ana River, a spring-fed body of water, is the primary source of Summer Lake’s waters. The lake remains alkaline as it has no outlets or drainage, relying solely on evaporation, leaving carbonate salt behind.

Birds such as white-faced ibis, bald eagles, Canada geese, yellow-headed blackbirds, red-tail hawks, goshawks, hermit thrushes, great blue herons, and a variety of ducks can be seen in the Summer Lake Basin. Summer Lake is a popular spot for bird observation and hunting.

5. Lake Billy Chinook

Lake Billy Chinook Oregon
Situated near the Culver and Madras in a canyon, Lake Billy Chinook has a surface area of 29,900 acres.

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Located in Jefferson County, Oregon, Lake Billy Chinook is a reservoir created in 1964 by the Round Butte Dam. It is situated near Culver and Madras in a canyon at the Crooked, Deschutes, and Metolius rivers. The lake covers 29,900 acres or 121 km² of surface area. It got its name after Billy Chinook, a Wasco tribe native who accompanied American explorers John C. Frémont and Kit Carson on their 1843 and 1844 journeys.

Lake Billy Chinook is a renowned jet skiing, water skiing, sailing, and boating destination in Central Oregon. Brown trout, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, and Kokanee can all be found in Lake Billy Chinook. Lake Billy Chinook is among the few bodies of water in the United States where bull trout can be lawfully fished. There are also fantastic crayfishing opportunities in Lake Billy Chinook. The Crooked and Deschutes arms are available all year, but the Metolius arm does have a restricted season, and local angling permission is required. The lake is surrounded by a 500-foot-deep canyon formed by volcanic activity and erosion over millions of years. 

4. Lake Abert

Lake Abert Oregon
As a shallow alkaline lake covering 36,480 acres, Lake Abert is one of the biggest lakes in Oregon.

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Lake Abert is a big, shallow alkaline lake located in Lake County, Oregon. It covers 36,480 acres and is 15 miles (24 kilometers) in length and 7 miles (11 kilometers) in width. The lake’s alkaline waters are devoid of fish, but a thick colony of brine shrimp provides food for a range of shorebirds. Lake Abert serves as a vital rest stop for migrating birds on the Pacific Flyway, allowing them to refuel by eating alkali insects and brine shrimp that have evolved to live in this salty environment.

During the spring and fall migration, it can be a very chaotic location, with vast flocks of shorebirds, waterbirds, and waterfowl collating here simultaneously. The Lake Abert area, located halfway between the Burns and Lakeview towns, has a rich history of Indigenous occupancy. Artifacts, towns, and petroglyphs have been discovered that date back thousands of years, casting doubt on the current knowledge of the Chewaucan people’s culture. Because the lake itself has no water rights, upstream flows from the Chewaucan River can leave the lake with almost no water, particularly during droughts caused by climate change.

3. Malheur Lake

Malheur Lake
Malheur Lake is the third-largest lake in Oregon.

NASA World Wind / This image is in the public domain because it is a screenshot from NASA’s globe software World Wind using a public domain layer, such as Blue Marble, MODIS, Landsat, SRTM, USGS or GLOBE.

Located in Harney County, Oregon, Malheur lake is one of the state’s largest lakes, having a surface area of 49,700 acres (201.1 km²) and an average depth of 2 feet (0.61 m). Malheur Lake’s western section comprises ponds divided by islets and peninsulas. Migratory birds, waterfowl, and aquatic vegetation thrive in the lake’s relatively shallow water. It is an important breeding and feeding habitat for ducks and many other bird species since it has various aquatic plants and grasses.

Ducks, egrets, gulls, geese, swans, herons, terns, and grebes are among the wildlife inhabiting Malheur Lake. The redband trout is a rare subspecies that has adjusted to the ecology of the Malheur Lake basin. Common carp, mountain whitefish, longnose dace, bridge lip sucker, brown bullhead, and sunfish are among the fish species found in Lake Malheur, providing a steady source of food for the nesting birds. Carp, an invasive European species, have practically taken over the waters in recent years.

2. Upper Klamath Lake

Upper Klamath Lake Oregon
Upper Klamath Lake is the largest body of freshwater located entirely inside Oregon’s borders.

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A vast yet shallow freshwater lake in south-central Oregon, Upper Klamath Lake is the largest body of freshwater located entirely inside Oregon’s borders, having a surface size of 61,543 acres (249.1 km²). The lake is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) long and 8 miles (13 kilometers) wide, and stretches northwest of Klamath Falls. Upper Klamath also sits at a high elevation, roughly 4,140 feet (1,260 m) above sea level. Without a doubt, the Upper Klamath is one of Oregon’s most stunning and well-known lakes.

In the summer, algae blooms give the water an opaque green hue, reducing the lake’s recreational opportunities. Despite the lake’s beauty, the fish inhabiting its waters are endangered, as the standard for dissolved oxygen continuously gets violated. The lake, noted for its rainbow trout fishing, is a crucial stop for waterfowl along the Pacific Flyway. The national endangered species list added the Lost River sucker and the shortnose sucker in 1988 when the populations of the two traditionally numerous Upper Klamath Lake fish species plummeted owing to poor water quality. 

1. Goose Lake

Goose Lake is the largest lake in Oregon, with a surface area of 94,080 acres.

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Located in the Goose Lake Valley in the United States, Goose Lake is a vast alkaline lake near the Oregon–California boundary. It is Oregon’s largest lake in terms of surface area, and it touches California’s borders. Goose Lake was produced by rainfall and melting glaciers during the Pleistocene epoch. It has 94,080 acres (380 km²) with a shoreline that stretches for 110 kilometers (68 miles). A campground with various amenities is available at Goose Lake State Recreation Area, where grassy expanses make it an appealing camping spot.

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