Diamond Lake is one of those places that Oregonians have been enjoying for generations because the experience has remained largely unchanged.
The first time visiting the lake, many people are surprised to learn that Diamond Lake is not shaped like a diamond at all. It’s more of an oblong rectangle 3 ½ miles long by 1 ½ miles wide. Under the right conditions, it does sparkle like a diamond, but that’s not how it got its name either. Diamond Lake was named after John Diamond, a pioneer settler who first noticed the lake from atop the soon-to-be-named Diamond Peak.
The lake is nestled completely within the Umpqua National Forest and is flanked on the west by Mt. Bailey, which has visible snowfields year-round, and Mt. Thielsen to the east. And almost directly to the south of Diamond Lake is Oregon’s only National Park – Crater Lake.
This year we’re spending two nights of the Classic at the Broken Arrow Campground on the south end of Diamond Lake. The US Forest Service maintains 450 campsites around the lake and the Broken Arrow Campground is one of five with boat launches. These campgrounds are perfect jumping off points for the miles and miles of road cycling and mountain biking trails in the area. There are also hiking trails that directly connect Diamond Lake to the summits of Mt. Bailey and Mt. Thielsen. If you should come across any furry creatures in the woods that appear to be carrying backpacks, don’t be alarmed. The Pacific Crest Trail passes nearby and through-hikers are common in the area.
For being in a rather remote area, Diamond Lake does have a number of amenities that make it extra awesome. First off, the lake is famous for its fishing. It has had an interesting history with invasive species and a grant from the Cycle Oregon Fund has helped rehabilitate the lake and eradicate the dreaded tui chub. For now, it’s safe to say that the trout are back, they are fat, they are plentiful, and they are biting. If you’re not in the mood for fish, South Shore Pizza has just about everything else covered. This humble joint midway down on the east bank of the lake is a laid-back pizza parlor/ice cream parlor/growler filling station/convenience store. Come for the tasty pizza, stay for the unbelievable view.
Last but not least, a third great amenity of note is the Diamond Lake Resort. This is the old school, wholesome, family fun vacation destination of Clark W. Griswold’s dreams. There are lakeside cabins, a restaurant, a lodge built in the 20’s and a marina that can set fun-seekers up with everything from boats, to horses, to bikes, to paddle boats, to snowmobiles and cross country skis in the winter. The resort is also a great place to jump on the nicely paved 11-mile bike and hike path that encircles the entire lake.
Recreation opportunities are all around and this particular area of Oregon goes big in the natural wonder department and the most wondrous of those natural wonders is Crater Lake. Just 5 miles from the Broken Arrow campground lies the northern entrance to Oregon’s very own National Park. The lake is the result of a massive eruption that happened 7,700 years ago. The explosion spread a layer of ash that covered several thousand square miles and created the bowl, or caldera, that filled with rain and snow to become what we now call Crater Lake. The water is so pure and clear that you can see down for nearly 100 feet.
At 1,949 feet, Crater Lake holds the distinction of being the deepest lake in the United States and the 9th deepest lake on earth. Most people see Crater Lake by car but it is well worth exploring at a more contemplative pace. If your timing is just right, you may get to see the Old Man of the Lake – a 30-foot long unsinkable log that has been bobbing vertically, casually meandering around the lake since 1896.
Diamond Lake, Crater Lake and the Umpqua National Forest are amazing places to explore. If you feel like you’ve seen it all and done it all in the summer, come back in the winter. It’s a completely different place with all kinds of new ways to have fun.