With so many beautiful lakes surrounding Central Oregon, and each lake with its own unique characteristics and charm, you could visit a new one every day and still not see them all! With limited time based on summer travel and many, many other activities happening in the area, it’s no wonder that it has taken some time to make the rounds. Not to mention that we have our favorite spots, and tend to favor the familiar over the unknown in certain situations (especially with kids!).
I must preface this post with the above disclaimer because some of you will be shocked that our family has never made one of the first stops along the Cascade Lakes Highway at Sparks Lake. Yes, that’s right…shun me now! What were we thinking? Isn’t that what the adventure is all about? Well, we’ve been Living the Bend Life, but sure missed this one until now.
At Sparks Lake, you will find a variety of cozy little “beach” spots sprinkled around the perimeter of the lake. There isn’t necessarily a central beach location with a span of lake frontage to set up camp. Here, you will need to just find a random parking spot along the road. If you get there early and get lucky, you may find a spot in the “parking lot” (an alcove along the road with room enough for two rows of cars). If you do, be very careful. Last weekend it was packed and the first row of cars was completely blocked in with no way to leave!
Alright, back to the lake! Park where you can, get out and take a short walk through the woods to scope out the scene and find a little beach spot all to your own! Depending on where you park, the walk to the shore can vary. We found a super cool spot, but it was a little bit of a trek down to the water carrying our SUP’s, cooler and kiddie kayak.
The ground is covered in a thick layer of dirt so there isn’t a lot of traction. It was quite the challenge for me to get up and down the hill in my flip-flops. Yes, I said it, my flip-flops! I’ve been holding out, resisting the need for legit water shoes. If you’ve followed my hiking posts you know I always recommend and sing praises about my hiking shoes! So now, this experience has proven to me that functionality (and safety quite honestly) must take a priority over fashion. You better believe I had a pair of Teva’s in my Amazon shopping cart the minute we got home. I will confess that I recently purchased my first pair of Birkenstocks as well. Yes, they are silver so they are the most fashionable style/color combo I could find, just like I ordered the cutest pair of Teva’s!
Again, back to the lake! Once you find your cozy little spot on the shores of beautiful Sparks Lake, it is time to explore the water, and the views…oh the views! Depending on where you are on the lake, you have a perfect view of Mt. Bachelor and stunning views of South Sister and Broken Top!
We chose to pack a lunch, strap it to the SUP and explore the lake looking for a secluded picnic spot to continue our adventure. It is a good idea to bring an outdoor blanket and throw it all in a water proof bag.
There are plenty of cool spots along the shores of Sparks Lake to pull up and explore!
This again is where the water shoes come in handy. Even though the bottom of the lake is surprisingly soft and sandy, there is quite a bit of lava rock scattered about with sharp edges. Quite painful when they pop out of nowhere! This is especially important if you would like to explore the rock formations.
Speaking of sandy, this is a great lake to bring some sand toys for your little ones. It is not the crushed lava rock of Elk Lake or the packed sand found at some of the other lakes that makes it impossible to dig. This is a lighter, much softer sand. My daughter was not happy we didn’t have her sand toys, but who knew. We usually bring them and they barely get used. I hope to save your little ones the same disappointment (and yourself the headache) with this little tip!
As you head out to the center of the lake, depending on where you put in, there is a canal that loops around a grassy area in the center of the lake, as the clearing begins to open, you will notice a huge bank of lava rock just off the shore with a canal running down the center. We were debating whether to go up the canal or go around the large rock formation. Going up the canal was where we were headed as it was a shorter distance. Luckily a kayaker overheard our conversation and recommended going around the outside of the rock and then back around through the canal as the current is quite strong and will give you a good ride going the other direction. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! It was the BEST advice! We did see another family struggling to make their way up the canal but they were already almost up to the entrance, so we couldn’t save them at that point. Paddle boarding, eating lunch mid-excursion, cruising down the canal, beautiful water, and to top it all off, the amazing views. What a great day!S
We didn’t explore the entire lake, and I am sure there are so many other cool spots and character traits to discover and tips to share. Many of you have probably already explored Sparks Lake and learned a thing or two along the way. Feel free to comment below and share with our community anything you think might be helpful to those of us on our adventure for the first time…Living the Bend Life!