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Beautiful Lake of the Woods is one of southern Oregon's favorite recreation destinations. A natural lake with over 1,250 acres, Lake of the Woods has attracted nature lovers' interest for well over a century. The lake was named by Oliver C. Applegate for its striking setting and made part of the Cascade Forest Reserve by 1898. In 1908, it became part of Crater National Forest, and in 1926 a permit was issued to build a resort at the lake. After leasing cottage locations to numerous future residents, and the Forest Service building two campgrounds, the lake became part of the Rogue River National Forest.
By the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps began improving local roads and constructing a Ranger Station and other buildings. The lake and nearby forest were transferred to the new Winema National Forest, now the combined Fremont-Winema National Forest. Through all of the transfers, Lake of the Woods continued to attract increasingly large numbers of visitors. Today, Lake of the Woods hosts resort cabins, campsites, three organization camps, and a number of private cottages and homes.
Lake of the Woods is the perfect location for all types of water sports, including swimming, waterskiing, tubing, sailing, pontooning, canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding. Over 200 cottages have private docks jutting into the water. A loosely-defined community of cottage owners lives along the southeastern shore in the area called Lake of the Woods. One might think that so many cottages would spoil the natural views available at the lake or impair water quality. Through careful management, that has not occurred. Large sections of the shoreline are undeveloped and contain wetland areas that harbor a striking variety of waterfowl, native mammals and birds. Pubic boat launches are available near Aspen Campground and at the concession-operated resort's marina. Non-boat owners can rent fishing-sized boats with motors, canoes and kayaks at the resort, so water access is available to all.
Anglers try their luck primarily for kokanee salmon, brown trout, rainbow trout, black crappie, yellow perch, largemouth bass and chub. Prior to Oregon Fish and Wildlife management of the fishery, a number of other types of fish were unofficially introduced to the lake by individuals. These other species competed so successfully against the more desirable species that they were crowded out. In 1955, the entire lake was poisoned so that Fish and Wildlife could start over on the stocking project. Today, the fish population is much more balanced and provides better fishing opportunities for all. In winter, the lake freezes over, and ice fishing takes the lead.
Both of the US Forest Service campgrounds are now managed by the concessionaire that runs the resort. Both offer a variety of tent, trailer and RV campsites, playgrounds, restrooms, electricity and water beneath shading pines and firs. Two day-use areas offer swimming beaches and picnic areas. The resort marina offers boat gas, dock space, boating supplies and snacks. Also available at the resort are two restaurants, a camp store and over 30 rental cabins designed with visitor amenities to make a stay here pleasant and comfortable. All visitors must either purchase a day-pass or hold a seasonal US Forest Service pass.
Lake of the Woods isn't the only attraction available. Several hiking and mountain biking trails in the area provide plenty of exercise. The popular High Lakes Trail meanders through Aspen Point Campground and joins other popular trails. The terrain near Lake of the Woods and Great Meadow below the outlet are generally flat and easy trails for those with children or limited stamina. More strenuous hiking or biking occurs for those who continue along the Cascades Crest to Fish Lake, a round trip of about 19 miles. The trail crosses the spectacular lava flows of Brown Mountain. Much is shaded by the old growth forest, and areas near the lakes themselves support a wealth of birds.
The Great Meadow area is an attractive destination in its own right, particularly in the spring when the wet meadow is ablaze with native wildflowers, and nesting grounds harbor waterfowl and meadow birds. In winter when the meadow dries, the area is a favored snow sports destination for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Wildlife are common in the Great Meadow and the surrounding forest. Commonly, animals such as elk, mule deer, black bear, black-tailed deer, cougars, coyotes and bobcats inhabit the less visited areas. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the area allow winter visitors to see numerous tracks of these wild creatures.
Lake of the Woods gains most of its water from ground seepage. Three inflowing streams also contribute water, only one of which flows year-round. The only outlet flows to Great Meadow and is usually dry by late summer, causing Great Meadow to be more of a seasonal wetland. Lake of the Woods never became part of the water storage reservoir systems so common in the West. Water levels only vary about two feet during the year, with most lost to evaporation and natural seepage. Consequently, water quality has remained good. Careful management efforts by the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife are geared toward maintaining that quality. Shoreline property holders have been encouraged to plant native vegetation near the water and to allow fallen trees to break up wave action from boats using the lake which can erode the shoreline.
Vacationing at Lake of the Woods needn't all be outdoor adventure. The small City of Klamath Falls is only about 45 minutes away by car, with larger Medford about an hour to the west. Klamath Falls in particular takes its western heritage seriously, with several museums and attractions designed to entertain and educate. The Favell Museum, although small, holds a very nice array of western art and Native American artifacts. The Klamath Art Gallery is a must-see for art lovers. For the youngsters, the Children's Museum of Klamath Falls will delight them with interactive exhibits, And, because outdoor recreation is always a focus here, there are commercial zip lines and adventure parks, along with the 15-mile OC & E Woods Line State Trail, a rail trail popular for mountain biking and easy strolling.
Lodgings at Lake of the Woods can be had at the resort cabins, campgrounds, or the few private rentals of cottages along the lakeshore. Because this is such a popular recreation area, numerous guest cottages, bed & breakfasts and inns are available in the surrounding area. A few cottages can be found for sale on occasion but are in high demand. A new development is planned for an area near the lake. If you have never visited the southern Oregon area, now is the perfect time to plan a visit. Klamath Falls and Lake of the Woods are ready to welcome you.
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