Over the years, I have generated many good memories paddling Paulina and East Lake. Twin basins, at one time united, these two waterways are now separated by modern eruptions of cinder cone and lava. Watching huge birds of prey locking talons for free falls over the water. Observing hundreds of fish being caught by raptor and fisherman alike. Still, every time I venture on the water here, I see something I have never seen before.
Deschutes National Forest explains via their website, “East Lake is a popular recreation lake in a setting of wooded shorelines, sandy beaches and brilliant blue-green water… Exceptional trout lakes nestled in the caldera of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, the largest ice-age volcano in Oregon.” East Lake also displays a gorgeous 360 degree volcanic skyline.
If you want to make it a full day excursion, be sure to check out some of the other noteworthy sites, all located within a stone's throw of East Lake and in the caldera. Paulina Falls, Big Obsidian Flow, Paulina Peak and Lake side resorts are just a few of the iconic tour stops.
Launches and paddle trails
There are a few launches on East Lake. All are great to embark from. Options for paddle trails include tracing a diameter cross section of the lake (paddling straight across) or circumnavigating it’s perimeter. We chose to cross from the south shore at East Lake Campground to a cove on the north west shore. This is probably the shortest and quickest trip with distance clocking in just under two miles.
Best Inflatable for the hydro-terrain
The waters at East Lake range from pristine and calm in the early hours of the day to picking up energy in the afternoon. It isn’t uncommon to see weather roll in quickly and white caps lapping (I recommend getting an early start). For our trip, we paddled the Mckenzie 125. This ended up being a chance advantage because the water kicked up on us. Having the self bailing floor in 1-2 foot waves was a big relief.
Once across the lake and on the obsidian glass shoreline at the mouth of the cove, we removed our tandem seats from the Mckenzie and used them as cushions on the shore. From our vantage, we were able to see two bald eagles taking flight and surfing the wind together.
On the way back, the water was pretty choppy. Like the birds in the wind, we were able to surf at an angle, down winder style, on the wave sets coming from the north east and breaking on the south shoreline, just down from the East Lake Campground dock, where we had traveled from.
Although we didn’t bring a rod on our paddle trip, you can easily fish from Aquaglide’s entire inflatable kayak and paddleboard fleet. Home to Kokanee, rainbow trout, Atlantic salmon, chub and brown trout, East Lake is renowned as one of the finest and most traditional fisheries in Oregon. Boasting a Brown Trout record of 22.5 lbs, it isn’t uncommon for amateurs to catch in the 10 lb range - regularly.
Remember, located at such high elevation, the wind, temperature and weather can change fast at East Lake, especially in the colder months. Come prepared. Be ready to turn around or do an alternate activity if the water looks unfriendly. Always paddle into the wind first, relying on the wind to carry you back to shore, and not the opposite.
If you're in the PNW, East Lake is worth the stop! Make a trip out of it and come say hi at our headquarters in Bend, Oregon.