Lake Celilo, Oregon & Washington, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Oregon - Mt. Hood-The Gorge - Washington - Southwest Washington -

Also known as:  Dalles Lock and Dam

Beautiful and serene Lake Celilo is located off of I-84 about an hour and a half east of Portland, Oregon. Lake Celilo stretches 24 miles long and straddles the border of Oregon and Washington. Majestic Mount Hood is visible while looking downstream towards The Dalles. Although most of the shoreline is bordered by highways and railroads, there are several recreational facilities that provide ample activities for lake visitors. Recreational activities include fishing, camping, boating, swimming and much more.

Lake Celilo was created by impounding the Columbia River two miles east of the city of The Dalles, Oregon. The dam, known as The Dalles Dam and Locks, was authorized by the Flood Control Act and is part of The Dalles – John Day- Willow Creek Project. The Project consists of The Dalles Dam, John Day Dam, and the Willow Creek Dam. Both The Dalles and John Day Dams combined produce more hydroelectric power than any other dam in the United States. Construction of Dalles Dam began in 1952 and was completed in 1960. One of the purposes of Dalles Dam was to provide safe navigation between The Dalles and Celilo Falls. Called The Great Falls by Lewis and Clark, Celilo Falls was flooded by the rising waters of Lake Celilo. Along with safe navigation, the 8,735-feet wide dam also provides power production. Tours of Dalles Dam have been limited recently due to Homeland Security directives, but plans are to reopen parts of the project for public viewing in the near future. Visitors may check the Corps of Engineers website to see when tours will be open. The tour includes a train ride from the Seufert Park Interpretive Center to the powerhouse, fish ladder, and petroglyphs.

Fish navigation is very important on the Columbia River, and much has been done on Lake Celilo to make sure that fish continue to move freely along the River. One of the ways this has been accomplished is by installing fish ladders. By installing two one-third mile long fish ladders into The Dalles Dam, adult Pacific Salmon, including Chinook, Coho, Sockeye and Pink, are able to migrate upstream. Other fish make use of the fish ladders including lamprey, steelhead and shad. Since 1957, fish moving up the fish ladder have been counted and recorded at the Dalles Dam. About 450,000 adult salmon and steelhead migrate upstream each year.

The landscape around Celilo Lake is primarily mixed grasses and shrubs with a few small clusters of cottonwood, willow and locust along the shoreline. The open and beautiful views of the lake can be seen at nine different recreational areas. Recreational areas can be found on both the Oregon and Washington side of Celilo Lake. Horsethief State Park and Maryhill have camping sites, while Celilo Park, Heritage Landing, Horsethief State Park, Maryhill, and Spearfish Park all have boat ramps. Other amenities at the lake include handicap facilities, marinas, picnic sites, restrooms and pull-through camper sites. The Dalles Dam Visitor Center was opened to the public in 1981 and is on the Oregon shore at Seufert Park. Exhibits at the visitor center include information on the history of The Dalles area and the Corps of Engineers. There is not an admittance fee for the visitor center, and it is a nice place to stop by while visiting Celilo Lake.

Boating is permitted on Celilo Lake, and windsurfing, waterskiing, and pleasure boating are all fun pastimes. However, due to the sudden discharges of water from the dam and current changes of the water, there are some restricted access areas called the Boat Restricted Zone or BRZ. These areas are above and below the dam. You can check with the Corps of Engineers to see where these areas are located.

Words cannot describe the beauties of Celilo Lake. Visitors of all ages will enjoy their trips to the lake. Whether visitors go to relax away from the busy cities, or enjoy a day of play in the waters, there is something for everyone at Celilo Lake.

Things to do at Lake Celilo

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • State Park

Fish species found at Lake Celilo

  • Chinook Salmon
  • Lamprey
  • Salmon
  • Shad
  • Steelhead Trout

Lake Celilo Photo Gallery

Lake Celilo Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 9,400 acres

Shoreline Length: 55 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 160 feet

Maximum Depth: 27 feet

Water Volume: 277,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1957

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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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