Paulina Lake, Oregon, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Paulina Lake.

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Paulina Lake visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: USA - West - Oregon - Central -

Set in the high desert country of central Oregon, Paulina Lake is one of two sparkling lakes resting in the caldera of Newberry Crater. Part of Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Paulina Lake is located in Deschutes National Forest and the Central Oregon Tourism Region. Within a 35-mile drive southeast of Bend, or 20-mile drive northeast of La Pine, will take you through miles of unique volcanic formations to 1,531-acre Paulina (pronounced Pull-line-ah) Lake and 1,050-acre East Lake.

Located within Deschutes County, Mount Newberry is part of the Paulina Mountains, lying less than 45 miles east of the majestic Cascade Range. Mount Newberry is a shield volcano that achieved its unusual shape from centuries of repeated fluid eruptions covering over 502 square miles. The last eruption occurred about 1,300 years ago, making it Oregon’s most recent volcanic eruption. Continued seismic and hydrothermal activities around Paulina Lake provide evidence that this volcano will eventually erupt again.

Archeologists have found evidence of native people visiting Paulina Lake and Newberry Crater as early as 10,000 years ago. For centuries, even during active volcanic periods, native people came to Newberry Crater to quarry obsidian used in their tools. In 1826 a fur trapper named Peter Skene Ogden became the first recorded white visitor to Newberry Crater. Newberry Mountain and crater are named for Dr. John Strong Newberry, a physician, geologist, and naturalist who passed through Oregon on a mapping expedition in 1855. Paulina Lake is named after a renegade Snake (Shoshone) Indian chief who led frequent raiding parties against Oregon’s white and Native American settlements during the mid-1800s.

With a maximum depth of 250 feet and average depth of 163 feet, Paulina Lake is larger and deeper than East Lake’s maximum depth of 185 feet and average depth of 67 feet. There are no inlets to either lake; both are dependent upon rain, snowmelt, and springs for their water supply. Paulina Creek provides an outlet for Paulina Lake. Decades of erosion along Paulina Creek carved a gorge in the crater’s west wall, creating picturesque Paulina Falls. From Paulina Falls, the outlet continues westward into Little Deschutes River. Paulina Lake’s thermal vents and hot springs are located near the northeastern shore. Temperatures in the springs can range from 95 to 175 degrees. The hot spring pools created for public use are mixed with cooler lake water for safety.

Several campsites, including a horse camp, two resorts and a small number of older vacation properties, lie within Newberry Crater’s four- to five-mile wide caldera. Campsite amenities include restrooms, drinking water, and a nearby trailer dump station. Fishermen and boaters will find boat launches and docks at the campsites. A boating speed limit of 10 mph is enforced during posted fishing days and hours. Boats with toilets are prohibited unless toilets render waste harmless or made inoperative by sealing outlets.

Angling in Paulina Lake is said to be consistently good from year-to-year, making Paulina and East Lake very popular fishing destinations for anglers seeking brown trout, rainbow trout, and kokanee. In 1993, a 27-pound, 12-ounce brown trout was caught in Paulina Lake, setting a new state record. A record setting four-pound, two-ounce kokanee was also caught in Paulina Lake in 1989. Eggs from Paulina Lake’s prized kokanee have been used to supply hatcheries in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

All the ingredients for a perfect family vacation can be found at Paulina Lake and the surrounding area. Recreational activities include swimming, water skiing, wind surfing, bird watching, bicycling, boating, and over 100 miles of trails for horseback riding and hiking. Paulina Lake campsites and some resort facilities are open year-round. Roads close during the winter so once the snow falls, access to Newberry Crater and Paulina Lake is by snowmobile or cross-country skiing.

The geologic features of Paulina Lake, Newberry Volcano, Lava Lands, and Lava Butte are a must see. The Big Obsidian Flow is the largest in the country; Lava Cast Forest is a forest of lava that molded and cooled around trees now long gone; Lava Butte is a cinder cone and eruption formation covering nine square miles; and Lava River Cave is a mile-long lava tube displaying the solidified crust that once surrounded a channel of flowing lava.

Within 20 miles to the northwest of Paulina Lake you will find two resort communities. Three Rivers offers vacation rentals and homes close to hunting, fishing, hiking and winter skiing. The beautiful community of Sunriver is located near the base of 9065-foot Mt. Bachelor and close to the Deschutes River. Sunriver is known for its resort offerings, hiking trails, beautiful pine forests, and proximity to popular winter ski areas. Continue 20 miles northwest of Sunriver, or approximately 40 miles northwest of Paulina Lake and you enter Three Sisters Wilderness Area. North, Middle, and South Sister all rise above 10,000 feet at the northeast end of the wilderness area. Approximately 260 miles of trails criss-cross the wilderness, including 40 miles of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Middle Sister holds Collier Glacier, Oregon’s largest glacier. Signs of volcanic activity dot a landscape filled with alpine meadows, waterfalls, rivers, and streams known for brook and rainbow trout fishing.

Close to Paulina Lake, the La Pine experience is captured in its slogan: “The Outdoors at Your Front Door.” Two rivers known for trout fishing and challenging canoe and kayak runs, Big Deschutes and Little Deschutes Rivers, run through the small community of La Pine. The 1.6 million-acre Deschutes National Forest surrounds La Pine, bringing winter and summer sport enthusiasts to Mt. Jefferson, Diamond Peak, Mt. Washington, and Mt. Bachelor.

A short 25-mile drive north of Paulina Lake takes you to the rapidly growing community of Bend. With over 263 days of sunshine, eastern Oregon’s dry climate has attracted a large number of retirees and remains a popular vacation destination for rain-weary residents of the Willamette Valley. In addition to Paulina Lake and East Lake, multiple fishing lakes and rivers are within easy driving distance of Bend. Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, also known as Oregon’s Highway in the Sky, starts in Bend. The 66-mile drive crosses the Big Deschutes River, ski resorts, and the following lakes and reservoirs: Todd, Sparks, Devils, Elk, Hosmer, Lava, Little Lava, Cultus, Crane Prairie Reservoir, Wickiup Reservoir, Twin, Davis, Crescent, and Odell Lakes.

The scenic loop returns to Bend, where you will find a full range of services and attractions for those who prefer a break from the back country. For something less rigorous, this community of 82,000 people offers an excellent selection of restaurants, live theatre performances, day spas, bowling, golfing, gallery hopping, and shopping.

Drive in any direction from Paulina Lake, East Lake, and Newberry Crater and you will find a wide selection of vacation rentals and real estate properties to complete your high desert experience. Whether you select a cabin along a babbling brook, a lodge with a majestic mountain view, or city condo with golfing and a day spa, central Oregon has it all. If adventure is your passion, Paulina Lake and the unspoiled natural wonders of central Oregon are waiting for you.

Custom Paulina Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Paulina Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wind Surfing
  • Tubing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Paulina Lake

  • Brown Trout
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Paulina Lake

The Paulina Lake map shown above is a simple and stress-free way to search for trip accommodations. But if you want to take a deeper dive to find the ideal waterfront home, cabin, condo, hotel or resort, visit our favorite lodging partners by clicking the buttons below.

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Paulina Lake photo gallery

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Paulina Lake statistics & helpful links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 1,531 acres

Shoreline Length: 6 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 6,335 feet

Average Depth: 163 feet

Maximum Depth: 250 feet

Water Volume: 250,000 acre-feet

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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