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Vacation In Oregon: Sparks Lake In Central Oregon

Updated on August 11, 2012
South Sister as seen from Sparks Lake
South Sister as seen from Sparks Lake | Source

Things To Do In Oregon

The state of Oregon is a traveler's paradise. From the beautiful mountains with their majestic forests to the coast with its magnificent rocky beaches, someone could travel for weeks and never tire of all there is to see--and do.

Central Oregon is a part of Oregon that isn't quite as well known as some of the other parts of Oregon yet, but is quickly becoming one of the hottest destinations for travelers as well as relocating families.

There is so much to do throughout Oregon it would take days to list all the places to see and things to do. Central Oregon is much the same way though it's most known for its wonderfully dry high mountain desert climate. It affords travelers and residents the ability to enjoy summers under a cloudless deep blue sky and to enjoy all the benefits of living in a winter climate.

Skiers, golfers, rock climbers, fisherman and river rafters are just some of the vacationing people you'll find in Central Oregon on any given day. People who live in Central Oregon like to boast that they're on vacation year round.

No matter where you go in Oregon, you simply can't go wrong. The phrase God's country comes to mind with the state's raw beauty and open lands.

Sparks Lake in Central Oregon is just one of the vast number of pristine lakes found in the central part of Oregon and is just one stop along the 90+ mile trek through the volcanic landscape called the Cascade Lakes Highway.

Broken Top as seen from Sparks Lake OR
Broken Top as seen from Sparks Lake OR

About Sparks Lake

This shallow lake was formed about 10,000 years ago as a result of lava flows blocking the upper Deschutes River. This occurred when the Mt. Bachelor Volcanic Chain had one of its historic eruptions.

What is left is a very serene, very large, yet very shallow lake (from 2 to 10 feet maximum) which is situated about 25 miles west of Bend, Oregon.

The lake itself is filled by snow pack melts but because of the shallowness of the lake itself despite its large surface area, late summer can find the lake rendered to almost just marshes.

Lava tubes under the surface of the lake carry water from the melted snow and lake fill to the Deschutes River. Fish also are transported through these tubes dependent on their size.

Situated at an elevation of about 5,500 feet above sea level, Sparks Lake lends unparalleled views of several mountains of the Oregon Cascades from their back sides.

From Sparks Lake, it's a photographer's dream come true. You can photograph the beautiful lake with its interesting rock formations and tree "islands" or you can get awesome pictures of the meadows--at times alive with wildflowers with the exquisite backdrop of the breathtaking mountains.

You can get great views of Mt. Bachelor Butte (just over 9,000 feet), the South Sister (10,350 feet elevation) and Broken Top (roughly 9,175 feet elevation).

My favorite spot to photograph? From the Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail though out on the water in a kayak is awesome too!

Sparks Lake though quite large is very shallow with a maximum depth of 10 feet
Sparks Lake though quite large is very shallow with a maximum depth of 10 feet

What To Do At Sparks Lake

  • Hiking--many different level hikes are available everywhere in the area
  • The Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail. This gives you spectacular views of the lake and the mountains and is wheelchair accessible
  • Kayaking--this is a favorite spot for kayakers of all ages because the water is so clear and shallow with easy access to the shore
  • Boating--due to the shallowness of the lake, caution is advised and motorboats are not permitted at more than 10 mph on the lake
  • Paddle boarding
  • Fishing--fly fishing only is permitted at Sparks Lake where trout (both cutthroat and brook) abound though the best fishing is said to be just after the road opens and the ice has thawed
  • Camping--several campgrounds are available at Sparks Lake and then further along the Cascade Lake Highway where there are more lakes and more campgrounds and resorts
  • Photography--it doesn't get any better than this location for great views of the Cascade Lakes and the Cascade Mountain Range
  • Newberry Crater and Wickiup and Crane Prairie Reservoir are close to the south
  • Birdwatching and wildlife viewing--many species of birds and wildlife abound along the Cascade Lake Highway. You can see everything from osprey and bald eagles fishing to chipmunks and ground squirrels who are more than happy to pose for pictures

Mt. Bachelor as seen from Sparks Lake Or
Mt. Bachelor as seen from Sparks Lake Or

Trivia: The Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail was named after the famous photographer who immortalized Oregon's Cascade Mountain Range.

The trail is an appropriate tribute to such a talented landscape photographer. Walking it, stopping to snap pictures along the way is a wonderful experience. You can almost feel his presence as you behold the beauty he captured.

Sparks Lake in Central Oregon

show route and directions
A markerSparks Lake Oregon -
Sparks Lake, Deschutes National Forest, Oregon, USA
get directions

Located 25 miles west of Bend, this is the first stop on the Cascade Lakes Highway heading west.

B markerBend Oregon -
Bend, OR, USA
get directions

C markerSun River Oregon -
Sunriver, OR 97707, USA
get directions

D markerLaPine Oregon -
Lapine State Park, Bend, OR 97707, USA
get directions

Contact Information

  • Deschutes National Forest
    1001 SW Emkay Drive
    Bend, OR 97702

    Phone: 541-383-5300

Visit their website at

Caution: Due to heavy snowfall, the road west of Bend is usually closed to traffic from mid October to late May, sometimes longer. It may be accessible at times from the southern route coming out of LaPine but always check weather conditions as this is rugged back country.

Bald eagle soaring over Sparks Lake
Bald eagle soaring over Sparks Lake

Other Lakes of the Cascade Lake Highway

All of these lakes are equally beautiful and each has its own interesting history. They are stretched out over a 90+ mile highway with all kinds of things to see and do along the way.

  • Elk Lake
  • Hosmer Lake
  • Lava Lake
  • Cultus Lake
  • Crane Prairie Reservoir
  • Wickiup Reservoir
  • Paulina Lake - over at the Newberry Monument
  • East Lake - likewise located at the volcano

Both of the reservoirs are favorite birdwatcher hangouts. They are also favorites for campers and hunters at all times of the year. They are farther to the south near Highway 97, so more easily accessible in any season.


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    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 5 years ago from Washington

      Kristy - you'd love it - definitely a beautiful place~ Thanks for the virtual visit!!

    • kissayer profile image

      Kristy Sayer 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Beautiful! This makes me want to get on a plane and explore Oregon!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 5 years ago from Washington

      From your lips to God's ears, BJ~ I only wish I could do something with them but alas there are only so many hours in the day....and I try and cram as much stuff as humanly possible into every one...the place is beautiful though...I saw some gigantic birds (they may have been cranes) and wanted in the worst way to go tromping out to capture them but couldn't justify upsetting the beauty of the place by being a typical "tourist." Another day.....

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      Sparks Lake and its environs appears to be idyllic, Audrey, and you have captured its beauty and serenity in your wondrous photos. You have the gift, girl!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 5 years ago from Washington

      Thanks, Joyce - it is very peaceful indeed!

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

      This lake is peaceful with a great back of the mountains. The video is great.

      Voted up, useful and interesting, Joyce.