Green Lakes, Oregon, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Oregon - Central -

Also known as:  Upper Green Lake, Middle Green Lake, Lower Green Lake

One of Central Oregon’s most popular hiking destinations is Green Lakes Trail. This popular hike offers views of both South Sister Mountain and Broken Top Mountain that tower over three small pristine alpine lakes in the Three Sisters Wilderness. Because the trailhead is only 27 miles from the City of Bend, large numbers of outdoor enthusiasts crowd the parking area on warm summer weekends. Self-service wilderness permits are available at the trailhead, and camping in the area is popular enough that the US Forest Service has designated several primitive campsites well away from the trails, shorelines and streams in the area. The Fall Creek Trailhead serves as the starting point of several hiking trails, and Green Lakes can be reached by either the shorter, moderate trail (round trip 8.5 miles) or the longer and more difficult Green Lakes Loop (17.1 miles). The shorter trail follows forest-rimmed Fall Creek upstream past several spectacular small waterfalls into the Green Lakes Basin.

The three Green Lakes are aptly named for their deep green coloring when seen from above on the trail. Set directly between South Sister and Broken Top, tiny Lower Green Lake is the first to come into view. At only three acres, some anglers cast a few flies to attract one of the native brook trout found here. Most hikers continue past the small lake to reach Middle Green Lake. A side trail allows adventurers to walk around the entire 83-acre lake. Directly north of Middle Green Lake, Upper Green Lake covers 10 acres. Set in an area of low grasses and wildflowers in season, the lakeshore invites tired hikers to rest and eat their picnic lunch. Campfires are not permitted, but those who pack a backpack stove can boil surface water for a hot refreshing drink. Upper and Middle Green Lakes both hold brook trout, while Middle Green Lake also contains rainbow trout. The water is exceedingly clear and transparent, encouraging fly fishermen to coax the clearly-visible trout with a well-placed lure. One of the routes to the slopes of South Sister Mountain begins at Middle Lake. Other trails lead to Broken Top and into other areas of the Three Sisters Wilderness.

All three Green Lakes were once one larger lake. A large lava field, the Newberry Flow on the lower southeast slope of South Sister, blocked drainage from snow-melt runoff and separated the lakes. Several other small lakes in the area faced the same fate. A couple of small streams contribute water to Middle Green Lake. Out-flowing Fall Creek has cut a channel around the east side of the old lava flow, draining excess water over five miles and dropping rapidly in elevation by 1000 feet until it drains into Sparks Lake. This is the source of the picturesque waterfalls along the trail. Because of the altitude and short summer season, the temperature of Middle Green Lake seldom reaches above 55 degrees, so there is little temptation to swim in the inviting water. Middle Green Lake reaches depths of about 45 feet, while the two smaller lakes have not been measured. The hiking season here is short, with snow-free trails from mid-summer into early autumn. Horses are allowed on the trail after the snow has melted, as are leashed dogs. The route is not recommended for children.

Taking the longer Green Lakes Loop back to the trailhead is somewhat more difficult due to the elevation change. The views of alpine meadows, South Sister, Broken Top and other area peaks are outstanding. Several side spurs lead to other spectacular views that are favorites of photographers. Vault toilets are available at the trailhead, but there are no accommodations in the Three Sisters Wilderness. Due to the popularity of the trails, hikers with a flexible schedule are advised to plan the trek during the week and visit other, less crowded trails on busy summer weekends. The City of Bend acts as host to the many visitors who arrive in the area to enjoy outdoor activities. Other favored activities in the area include fly fishing the Deschutes River and enjoying trekking and camping in the Deschutes National Forest. Bend offers the opportunity to tramp through unspoiled wilderness during the stay and yet enjoy the luxuries offered by resort lodges and comfortable hotels by night.

This popular area is replete with all types of lodgings such as cozy bed-and-breakfasts, vacation cabins and condo rentals. Those having their fill of hiking and spectacular vistas can take the day off and golf one of the local courses, visit unique galleries or shop in the many boutique shops in town. The area is a favorite with mountain bikers, particularly the scenic Cascade Lakes Highway. Bend offers plenty of restaurants, nightlife and entertainment. RV travelers will find a number of full-service private campgrounds both close to town and with scenic views. And when visitors fall in love with the area, there are a number of real estate firms that offer a variety of properties in all price ranges. And it all starts with your first visit to spectacular Green Lakes and the Green Lakes Trail.

*Statistics listed are for Middle Green Lake.

Things to do at Green Lakes OR

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Waterfall
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Green Lakes OR

  • Brook Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Green Lakes OR Photo Gallery

Green Lakes OR Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 83 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 6,505 feet

Maximum Depth: 45 feet

Drainage Area: 3 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophiic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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