Matthieu Lakes, Oregon, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Oregon - Central -

Also known as:  North Matthieu Lake, South Matthieu Lake

The Matthieu Lakes Trail is one of Oregon’s most scenic day hikes. Located in the Three Sisters Wilderness, North Matthieu Lake and South Matthieu Lake have been delighting hikers seeking splendid scenery for many years. The Three Sisters refer to three volcanic peaks in the Cascades: North Sister, Middle Sister, and South Sister. The trail’s six-mile round trip is considered one of the easiest in the High Cascades of Central Oregon, although there are some steep slopes involved. The Matthieu Lakes Trail is one of the best ways to view North Sister Peak without serious climbing and enjoy a short hike through varied terrain. For more dedicated outdoor adventurers, the lakes can be seen from the Pacific Crest Trail, and a short spur will lead down to the Matthieu Lakes. The lowest elevation on the trail is 5,280 feet, and the highest point is 6,007 feet.

The trail leading to the first lake is wooded, a mixed forest of hemlock and fir draped in hanging mosses. Thick ground cover, including low bush huckleberries, covers the forest floor and makes it look more like the forests on the west side of the crest. Several ponds lie alongside the trail, and wildflowers are common in season. Although close together, the two lakes are quite different in character. North Matthieu Lake, the first one along the trail, is relatively shallow and irregularly-shaped with about six acres of surface. The lakeshore is heavily wooded, with rainbow trout regularly stocked by the State of Oregon. Anglers usually stop here because South Matthieu Lake is no longer stocked. There is an area near the shore designated for primitive camping. No services are provided. From North Matthieu Lake, the summit of North Sister Peak can be seen over a ridge to the south.

A mile farther along the trail, South Matthieu Lake sits in the saddle of Scott Pass and is less than half the size of North Matthieu Lake. Windswept and not as heavily wooded as the north lake shoreline, the few campsites here reward visitors with spectacular views of North Sister Peak. The climb from the trailhead gains less than 800 feet in elevation. Day hikers often perch above the steep rocky shore of South Matthieu Lake to eat lunch before heading back toward the trailhead. Both day hikers and backpack campers must obtain a permit, available at the trailhead, during the summer months.

The Matthieu Lakes Trail is part of the famed Pacific Crest Trail system. Only about 14 miles from the town of Sisters, Oregon, there is no sign at the roadside on the McKenzie Highway. Instead, those wishing to visit Matthieu Lakes take the Lava Camp Lake/Pacific Crest Trail exit. Past the Dee Wright Observatory, there is a parking area at the trailhead. The Lava Camp Lake small rustic campground is just beyond the trailhead and allows horse camping. Horses are allowed on the trails; mountain bikes and motorized vehicles are not. The trail begins at the parking area. After the first quarter-mile, the Pacific Crest Trial (PTC) is joined at a wall of lava rock. Following the PCT south for half a mile, the trail splits off to the right to North Matthieu Lake and beyond. The trail rejoins the PTC again before reaching South Matthieu Lake, and many hikers continue on the PTC for many miles. Those who want to take a different route back to the trailhead can follow the PTC along the high ridge that passes above North Matthieu Lake, providing a lovely view of the lake from above.

Hikers who make the trip often stop at the Dee Wright Observatory on their way back to the highway. Built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps and named for the camp foreman, the lava rock structure has been a favorite of visitors since 1935. Focused on the lava flows surrounding it, the Observatory features interpretive panels along the path that tell about the geology of the area and past human interaction. The viewing windows inside the observatory look out upon several of the Cascade peaks which can be identified using a bronze ‘peak finder’. Outside, a half-mile paved path through lava rock allows visitors to get a close-up view of a lava flow.

The town of Sisters is prepared for visitors with services and lodgings to complement an active outdoor vacation. Several resort lodges and camps are located near Sisters. Some are quite luxurious and include golf courses, excellent dining and spa services. Many local guest cabin rentals, RV resorts and campgrounds join motels and hotels to suit every need. Outfitters arrange fly fishing and whitewater rafting excursions. National forest campgrounds are numerous in the area, although most are rustic. Sisters provides some shopping opportunities, and the larger town of Bend is only 25 miles to the south. Nearly every month in Sisters a festival or public event is showcased, from rodeos to concerts to art festivals, golf tournaments, fairs and 5k runs. It is no wonder real estate in the area is in demand. Over 260 miles of trails in the Three Sisters Wilderness assure that adventurous visitors never run out of new trails to explore.

Matthieu Lakes were named after Francis Xavier Matthieu, one of the early French pioneers to Oregon Territory who met in 1843 at Champoeg to establish Oregon’s first provisional government. He voted with the Americans to align with the United States instead of Britain. Matthieu remained in Oregon the rest of his life, dying in 1919 at age 100. The lakes were named in his honor in 1924. Much of the history of early Oregon centers around the mountain passes in the area that allowed Oregon to become settled. The names of these early explorers are often attached to passes, mountains and streams in the area and are known by most Oregon school children. The names roll easily off the tongue of hikers and wilderness explorers in the ever-popular Three Sisters area. A few sunrises with these spectacular peaks in view and you too will want to find a permanent place in Central Oregon.

* Statistics are for North Matthieu Lake only.

Things to do at Matthieu Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • National Forest
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Matthieu Lakes

  • Perch
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Matthieu Lakes Photo Gallery

Matthieu Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 6 acres

Shoreline Length: 1 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 5,804 feet

Maximum Depth: 14 feet

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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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