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The children giggle and squeal sliding like seals down the waterslide at Emigrant Lake and landing with a splash in the water. A few quick strokes to the shore and they climb out to do it again chasing each other to the bottom of the slide. On the opposite end of the lake, anglers cast their rods hoping this trip will be the time they bring home the big one - a monster largemouth bass they can tell stories about when they are back at work. Both of these experiences and many more are available at Emigrant Lake in the southern region of Oregon. Nestled between two mountain ranges and two national forests, Emigrant Lake is surrounded by some of Oregon's most beautiful scenery.
Emigrant Reservoir, in Jackson County, is an impoundment of Emigrant Creek which makes up the lake's primary inflow and outflow. Emigrant Dam was built in 1924 by the Talent Irrigation District to create a water storage reservoir for irrigation. Between 1958 and 1960 the US Bureau of Reclamation built a new dam and enlarged the reservoir so it could be used for flood control. The resulting reservoir is also used to regulate discharges from the Green Springs Power Plant. The lake is part of the Talent Division of the Rogue River Basin Project. The reservoirs in the project store flood waters when necessary and provide water to irrigate about 15,000 acres of farmland used to grow pears, hay and grain. Water levels on Emigrant Lake fluctuate significantly over the course of the year; water levels can drop from 800+ acres down to 250 acres by the end of September.
The Bureau of Reclamation owns about 600 acres of land around Emigrant Lake. In 1968 it leased the land around the lake to Jackson County to be used as a park. Emigrant Lake Recreation Area rings the horseshoe shaped lake. The more developed area near the dam is known as the North End Park. The recreation area includes a campground with sites for RV's and a 280 foot twin flume waterslide with showers and a concession stand. There is also a large picnic area suitable for outdoor weddings and family reunions. Emigrant Lake is a popular place to swim, and there is more than enough room to canoe, kayak, boat and water ski. Anglers can test themselves against the lake's abundant populations of crappie, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and brown bullhead. Occasionally the lake is stocked with rainbow trout, steelhead and Chinook salmon.
Emigrant Lake is a short drive from the city of Medford and just eight miles from Ashland. There are a few vacation rentals on the lake and more in Ashland which also has real estate available for sale. Ashland is a charming small town with restaurants, shops and various accommodations. It is also the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, drawing thousands of people to the area every year. Emigrant Lake lies between the two sections of the Ashland Ranger District. Part of the 1.8 million acre Rogue River -Siskiyou National Forest, the district includes 98,695 acres split between the Southern Cascade Mountains in the east and the Siskiyou Mountains in the west. There are trails for hiking and biking, and in the winter there is cross-country skiing and downhill skiing nearby.
The Klamath National Forest is slightly west of Emigrant Lake. The almost two million acre forest spans parts of California and Oregon and includes elevations from 450 feet to 8,900 feet above sea level. From the hot dry south to the cold wet north, it is an incredibly diverse forest with over 400 species of animals including wild horses, elk, eagles and mountain lions. It is also the only place where the Siskiyou Mariposa Lily grows.
Seated at the foot of the Siskiyou Mountains surrounded by not one - but two- national forests, Emigrant Lake is in some of the most beautiful countryside in southern Oregon. With is abundant fish and wildlife and hundred of acres of parks it has almost limitless recreation opportunities. Add the amenities and culture of nearby Ashland and there is sure to be something to please everyone at Emigrant Lake.
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