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Outdoor Report: Though access is improving, it’s mosquito season so be prepared if you plan to fish the high lakes

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Anglers searching for Brookies to fry or Rainbows to release at peaceful Gold Lake. Rob DeHarpport photo

By ROB DEHARPPORT/for The Herald  —  Access to the high elevation areas is improving. On Wednesday June 12th, I made my second attempt this year to access Waldo Lake. This time I was successful! Four-wheel drive was not needed to drive into the Shadow Bay boat ramp area. The campground remains gated and closed at this time due to snow drifts and downed trees. Some drifts in the area appear to be 3-4′ deep.

I proceeded up the Waldo Lake Road towards North Waldo and Charlton Lake. As I suspected, the north Waldo area is closed off just beyond the Charlton Lake Road due to hazards left from the 120,000 acres Cedar Creek fire in 2022.

Burned forest at Charlton Lake from the 2022 Cedar Creek Fire. Rob DeHarpport photo

Charlton Lake is accessible for about a quarter of the always-rough road that connects 8 miles away with the Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway. This road has never been recommended nor is a healthy choice for passenger cars. As I discovered after the fire, the trail into Charlton Lake is very scorched. Most of the lakeshore was left untouched by the fire except along the northern shore area.

 Fly fishing at Gold Lake

The road into Gold Lake is now open. Gold Lake used to be a favorite fly-fishing lake for beautiful and large Rainbow Trout. That is, until the Brook Trout population exploded several years ago. Actually, that started closer to 30 years ago. It continues to be a fly fishing only lake. Rainbows must be released. There is no limit on the number of Brooke’s in an effort to whittle down the population and restore the Rainbow population. In 2020, the Oregon Marine Board approved a regulation allowing electric motors on this 100-acre gem. Anglers must use a fly rod (no spinning rod and reels) as well as barbless hooks only.

A cautionary note: the paved road into Waldo Lake has been deteriorating in recent years.  It continues to deteriorate most likely due to budget constraints the USFS faces in large part from costly mega-fires in our forests over the last 30 years. This is certainly not the only paved road that is falling apart. The Crescent Lake Road is also very rough in places. As is the paved road into Trapper Creek Campground and Shelter Bay Resort.

 Deferred maintenance hinders outdoor recreation

In my opinion, it’s a crying shame that we have so much deferred maintenance throughout our National Forest. There is no easy fix. Our country has a very serious national debt problem. Wouldn’t it be wonderful that instead of letting all this burned timber rot, we salvage some of it to maintain what has been built? That being before litigation became the driving force in Forest Management. Better yet, wouldn’t it be great to find a middle ground with the serial litigants and actually allow our foresters to actively manage our forests? That bit of a rant can be continued in a focused opinion piece someday.

 A good year for mosquitos?

I digress.  Back to reporting access, fishing etc. Another word of caution: Mosquito season is off to a buzzing start! Long sleeves and Deet repellant should be handy on any outing. My recent walks have been pestered with the hungry rascals. As was an afternoon visit with a friend after fishing at Sunset Cove campground. It’s looking like a stellar season for the blood suckered lies ahead with quite a bit of snow still melting and puddling.

Shadow Bay Campground closed for a while longer. Rob DeHarpport photo

Respect the water

More caution as usual this time of year. Cold water on the McKenzie claimed the life of a 26-year-old man this week. Another man succumbed a couple of weeks ago while swimming in the Illinois River in Southern Oregon. It’s sad that this continues annually on Oregon waterways. Cold lakes and rivers this time of year are deadly. No matter the air temperature.

 All that aside, fishing is good

Fishing continues to be great at many of our Cascade high lakes. Odell, Crescent, Crane Prairie, Paulina and Diamond are all reporting good angler success.

It won’t be long before all high elevation roads and trails will be snow free. However, the snow will linger in some areas. Plan accordingly and be flexible.

None of this is unusual for June. Oregonians simply deal with the skeeter population, bumpy roads and make the most of living our best lives enjoying the outdoors.

It’s looking like a great Father’s Day weekend ahead. Get outside and make some memories with friends and family. Enjoy and be safe.

Rob DeHarpport was a long-term resident and former mayor of Westfir. Rob now lives in the Crescent Lake area and is The Herald’s reporter for the Outdoor Report. Rob DeHarpport photo

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