Waldo Lake was effectively isolated from human activity until the late 1800s, when it appeared on a map prepared by the Surveyor-General of Oregon dated August 24, 1863 (Larson 1995). The U.S. Forest Service granted permission to A.R. Black for the construction of a canal on the lake’s natural outlet in 1905; Black later sold the rights to the project to F.N. Ray and Simon Klovdahl in 1908. Ray and Klovdahl intended to monopolize water rights to the entire Willamette Valley using their newly formed Waldo Lake Irrigation and Power Company. Projecting to supply enough water to irrigate 100,000 acres of farmland and to generate 40,000 “horsepowers” of energy, Ray and Klovdahl would’ve had a significant effect impact on the economic, social, and ecological status of the Willamette Valley had they succeeded. Financial and logistic difficulties led to the demise of the project in 1914, but not before the Klovdahl Tunnel was constructed on the lake’s southwestern edge. The tunnel has since been deemed a Natural Historic Place, and stands as a reminder of the first entrepreneurs set on manipulating the lake’s natural processes (Claeyssens 21).
The Forest Service took jurisdiction over the Waldo Lake area in 1934; investigations of the lake’s limnological properties began shortly thereafter. Fishstocking practices had occurred somewhat sporadically since 1889, and continued with increasing regularity and intensity until 1990. (Further discussion of fish management issues will follow). Access to the lake improved drastically in 1966, when roads and lakeside camping facilities were established and expanded. A 13-mile-long paved road between Highway 58 and Waldo opened in 1969; since then, the number of visitors to the area has increased from a few hundred in 1967 to 170,000 in 1994 (Willamette National Forest 2004).
Waldo stretches 9.6 kilometers in length and 2.65 kilometers in width, giving it a total surface area of roughly 26 sq. km and making it the second largest lake in the Oregon Cascades. Its maximum depth (128 m), located at its southern basin, is considerably greater than its mean depth (39 m). Its elevation (1,650 meters above median sea level) and water clarity (Secchi-disk reading 40.5m) classify Waldo Lake as an ultraoligotrophic high-mountain lake (Bronmark 175, Larson 2000: 6). The lake and its watershed are within the Waldo Lake Wilderness Area, and included in the Oregon Scenic Waterway system (qtd. in Larson 2000: 4).
Acclaimed for its intense blue color and transparency, Waldo Lake is a marvel to limnologists, biologists, geologists, and the public alike. Its water is incomparably dilute, chemically similar to distilled tap water (Todd). The combined effects of having a small watershed area (barely twice that of the lake’s total area), organically poor soils, and a heavily forested boundary result in a very low amount of nutrient flow into the lake. As a consequence of having low nutrient levels, phosphorous in particular, appositely low rates of phytoplankton production typify Waldo Lake (Bronmark 177). This feature has changed in the last sixty years, as human access and use of the lake has increased.
Flora and fauna
Roughly 80 percent of the Waldo Lake watershed is forested, namely with mountain hemlock, western hemlock, lodgepole pine, western white pine, Douglas fir, noble fir, true fir, and Engelmann spruce. Mountain hemlock, true fir, and lodgepole pine dominate the immediate area surrounding the lake. Soils are organically poor, highly permeable, and less than 2 meters deep: basalt bedrock is visible at many places around the lake (Larson 2000: 5, personal observation 2003).
The ODFW stocked Waldo with rainbow trout, brook trout, kokanee salmon, and cutthroat trout until 1990. Opossum shrimp (mysids) were also released as an additional food source for fish between 1965 and 1967 (Ziller 146, Larson 2000: 9).
Waldo lake is located 58 miles southeast of Eugene. About 10 miles off of highway 58. Waldo Lake is surrounded by the Waldo Lake wilderness area, the northern border of Waldo Lake Wilderness is the southern border of the very popular Three Sisters Wilderness.
Waldo Lake is the only major lake in Oregon with a shoreline trail good for backpackers. [Backpacking Oregon, Douglas Morain, 1999, p189]
Waldo Lake is supports 3 Large Campgrounds. All have boat ramps, water, bathrooms, and gravel trails. They are also handicapped accessable.
Waldo Lake is well known for mosquitoes. A visitor should bring several bottles of repellent if visiting during summer months. Mosquitoes are common in most Cascade lakes. Its most important to wear insect repellent around the lake in the evening hours. Be aware that many types of insect repellent have been proven to be toxic, carcinogenic, and cause birth defects, and many on the market have not been tested. Just because it says 'natural' on the label does not mean it is safe.