Sunday, July 5, 2015

Low Water in the Cascade Lakes

Low Water in the Cascade Lakes

There's been lots of strange weather going on this year around the country. Tons of snow out east this winter. Back here in the Pacific Northwest, we were desperate for snow. My partner and I did a snowshoe up by Mount Bachelor to Todd Lake in January and even then you could see how low the snow pack was. Trail signs in the trees that should have been at head height (because of the deep snow) were 30 feet over our heads. It was really bad. But even though I had been prepared, I still wasn't ready for how low the Cascade Lakes were when we did our yearly Kayak Portland meet up vacation trip up there in the middle of June 2016.

My partner and I have a special tie to this particular half week long event. First, 2 years ago it was our first real commitment to each other (that is, she invited me to go off on vacation with her in 2 months when we had been dating for about 1 month) and second, 1 year ago at the event was our wedding (that is, she asked me to marry her and I said yes and we found this waterfall in Bend...). This year, I decided to really splurge for our anniversary and got us a nice campsite at Tumalo State Park. Talk about ritzy, this place had room for 3 tents and the water spigot was (almost) IN OUR CAMPSITE!!. But the Clincher: Single Stall lockable (and therefor co-ed) showers !!! Yes, that is right, 3 exclamation points.(2 of them were mine). (Editor's note:  I actually found the campsite and made all the travel arrangements, as Jon was busy working 60 hours a week with meetings at all hours of the night.  We were in danger of a dingy motel 6 as things were filling up fast in Bend)

So. Anyway. The club usually has this 4 part trip (and I encourage you to go follow the link above and join us some time, if not on this trip, than on any other, there are like 5 a week). We start off with a quick little paddle us the Deschutes river through the city of Bend. Bend Oregon was a thriving little summer vacation home community before the housing bubble. It took a pretty hard hit then but it is now rebounding and as far as I can tell, because of the craft beer industry. Cascade, 10 Barrel, Deschutes, to name just a few. Deschutes has Mirror Pond Ale, which is fabulous, but any of their many selections are wonderful. And 10 Barrel just got bought by Anhiseur Busch, so you know that they must be even better than Budwieser; hell, probably better than Bud Light.

But I digress.

We met over by Tumalo Creek Kayak and launched with around 20 boats to paddle up the Deschutes. This is a lazy paddle. The river is wide and 3-4 feet deep as it winds its way from the highlands, through the old mill district of the city. Off to our left, as we paddle up stream, is the old mill itself. The building is now the local flagship REI, but it still boasts the old architechture and the 4 towering smoke stacks of the old mill. Around REI is a nice little outdoors shopping mall. Today there is a local beer fest going on at the waterfront, but I take it that a beer fest is not an uncommon occurrence for this area. As we paddle up the river we are passing many a bikini or shorts clad youngsters floating down stream on innertubes, floats, or air mattresses. Bend has a little business of lauching people in tubes at the local park. You float downstream for maybe an hour and then get out and catch the city shuttle back up to the top. Great fun.

At the end of this lazy river is a canyon where a much more lively Deschutes hits bottom after a couple of miles run down from the top of the local lava flows. We paddled up to the rapids and played around for a bit, entering the eddylines and bucking the currents. The river is pretty low for this time of year but it was still great eddy play and we all had a good time. Afterward we shot back down the river to have some dinner at the pub/brew house that is right next to the Kayak shop. I forget the name of the brewery, but I do know that isn't the same name as it was last year when we went there. A whole different menu and schtick. This year, it was all genuine Kansas food. Perhaps Missouri.... But we had great Corn Bread. I wonder how often these little brew houses and restaurants turn over? It seems like such an easy thing to go into a place and eat their burgers and think “Hey, I could do this. But mine would be better because I would have {Enter what you would have here}”. (My thing would be Buffalo Burgers).



After a wonderful night in our campsite, Perhaps a shower, it was time to go up to the Cascade Lakes for our first real paddle. We always start at Hosmer Lake. These mountain lakes all have definite inflow and outflow areas. The inflow is usually a crystal clear little mountain stream. The outflows are usually some interesting hole in the lava where the water bubbles back down through the ground. The lakes all feed each other. Water from the top lakes feeding down to the bottom lakes. All of them fed by snow melt. Hosmer is down below Sparks and Elk and so I expected it to still be doing well no matter what the condition of the other lakes was. But Hosmer was down 1 to 2 feet below what it usually is this time of year. Don't get me wrong, the lake was still enchanting and wonderful, full of ducklings and Osprey and water lilies. But this year the water lilies and other plants were on the ascendancy and open water was more restricted. We paddled around to the inflow area. Usually we can paddle up to the little creek, and in fact actually paddle UP the creek for several hundred yards to eat lunch at a pleasant little waterfall. This year, we couldn't even get to within 100 yards of the creek because the water was just too shallow and we were all getting stuck in the mud.

Got some good shots of a yellow headed blackbird feeding his/her rather large youngsters

Everything is fed by snow melt. To give you some idea of what this means, I am posting some pictures from Hosmer Lake of Mount Bachelor. Note the difference in snow cover.

June 19 2015
June 20th 2014
Ok, so study the lower right area of the mountain. And this isn't Bachelor, this is .... South Sister?

2015. His paddle is touching the bottom.
2014. Ok, so pretty shallow here, but this was meadow this year.

That night my partner and I celebrated our anniversary. We invited our action adventure team member, Chip, to join us. Chip claims that he is responsible for our relationship since I never would have learned to kayak or taken such an interest in joining the meet-up if it had not been for him. In fact, it was his idea and he drove to the first meet-up that I went to where I first my Kayak Partner. This anniversary we went to Cascade Brew house. It is much better than 10 Barrel as you can find parking and get a table. It also has great service and food. I had the Elk Burger. Not as tasty as my Buffalo Burger would be, but mighty damn fine.

That night we had an anniversary shower.  (after a trip to REI, in which we realized that buying each other what we wanted for ourselves was something we could do anytime from our computers at home)

Sparks Lake was the next morning. The water was REALLY low at Sparks. Places that I usually go paddling across were well developed meadows. The lake was down at least 2 feet. You had to be careful paddling near the boat ramp that you didn't hit lava rocks that were usually much too deep to care about. The up side was that the water was so low that there were beaches everywhere. Usually we have a hard time finding a beach where 20 people can eat lunch. This year we found lots of nice deserted ones. The water was also much warmer than it usually is. The sun was roasting, so we did some swimming and kayak safety practice.

This is near an outflow. The usual water level is that horizontal crack in the rocks.

Momma and Baby Mergansers.

lunch on the Beach.

This Goose family was out for a swim. They were acting very strangely. The Dad was very aggressive toward me and I couldn't figure out why, since I wasn't cornering them. Then Dad came toward me and passed me and went out in the water behind me. He sat there for a long while and then, up popped baby #5. It must have been hiding underwater for an awful long time.

So anyway. I don't know if this strangeness is global warming or just the republicans fraking with us, but it has definitely been a very strange winter, spring, and summer here in the Pacific Northwest. As I type to you now, it is 86 degrees at 8:00 pm. Hit 93 earlier today and that was average for the last 2 weeks. Crazy. Let's check back in a year and see what is up. The main thing I know is that, because of the heat and such, next year for our Bend trip, we are getting a hotel.


  1. 2016! You must have been given a crystal ball for an anniversary gift. :D

    I was confused for a minute. I even had to double check what year it was, hah.

    1. Karen, thank you for traveling to the future and reading my blog from there. Are the Polar Bear extinct yet?