Annually in August, we schedule a fun dive to Clear Lake, Oregon. My first trip to this awesome local dive site was in 2008. For many of the group, including me, this was a first time experience in diving the lake. We ended up having a total of 30+ people join us for the day. Of those in attendance, 23 of us were diving!!
Thirteen of us, including me, were also taking the Altitude Specialty course which is a very useful and informative course for diving in local mountain lakes or traveling in our area after diving as we have many mountain passes (for example I go over 4 passes on the way to my parents in another part of the state!).
We also all participated in a potluck since we were spending the whole day at the lake, which is remote and 30+ minutes from food or convenience stores. Our Dive Staff regaled the group with our “culinary skills” having prepared such complex iron chef worthy offerings like Fruity Pebbles crispy treats which should be experienced at least once. One diver described that eating them was like “getting punched in the face with a lemon!”
The drive to the lake is a beautiful windy trip through the mountains and took me past some places I hadn’t visited since late night crazy University of Oregon hot spring runs. With high gas prices, 5 of us grouped up to carpool in our shop owner’s Ford 350, and Billy was educating us as to “optimal gas conservative speeds.” I wondered about the validity of this as among many of the vehicles we were passed by, one was a luxury RV bus (the kind you expect country singers to be in)…pulling a trailer…being driven by my grandmother. He did speed up slightly when I mentioned that in the side mirror I thought I saw a moped scooter pulling a boat signaling to pass us.
Clear Lake, located about 2.5 hours Southeast of the Portland/Vancouver area or about 75 miles East of Eugene, OR, is surrounded on three sides by 9,000′ tall snow-capped mountains at an elevation of 3,012′ and is primarily fed by snow runoff from nearby Mount Washington and the surrounding areas. Sources state the runoff filters through underground caverns for more than 20 years before emptying into Clear Lake. Clear Lake also serves as the headwaters of the McKenzie River, which is the sole source of drinking water for Eugene, Oregon.
Clear Lake is reported to be one of the most exceptional freshwater dive spots in the United States, a certain unique experience. Submerged in the lake are upright preserved trees that were killed approximately 3,000 years ago when volcanic activity created the lake, bubbling springs, eerie neon green foliage, and weird little stick bugs underwater (plus some little red dots that I swore had legs and were also moving). The trees are remarkably well preserved due to the cold year-round water temperatures ranging between 35–43 °F. The lake has two main water bodies connected by a fast moving bottleneck (sort of hourglass shaped) which presents some fair water movement when in that channel, while the water movement in most other places is quite serene. The bottom composition is a thick ash so extremely clean finning is a must. I recommend that scissor kick divers stay 10′ above the bottom whereas frog kick divers have no issues skimming the bottom (you can see evidence of this in the photos). Visibility can ebb into the 100’+ range at times.
While the water is colder, with appropriate dive wear and an average dive of 20 minutes, the temperature was not extremely remarkable. The amazement of the underwater views took most divers’ attentions anyway. This has become an annual August dive for Seven Seas Scuba, including many divers camping the weekend and some moonlight dive! Will you plan on joining us!?