Sky Lakes Wilderness, Oregon, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Oregon - Southern -

Also known as:  Alta Lake, Grass Lake,Middle Lake, Cliff Lake, Big Heavenly Lake, Isherwood Lake, Donna Lake, Deep Lake, Deer Lake, Trapper Lake, Margurette Lake, Elizabeth Lake, Sonja, Lake, Little Heavenly Lake, Wizard Lake, Trapper Lake, Fourmile Lake amd more

Twenty-seven miles long and only about six miles wide, the Sky Lakes Wilderness in Southern Oregon holds more than 200 lakes! The Wilderness, designated in 1984, encompasses 113,590 acres within the Cascade Range, with the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail crossing it from north to south. Motorized vehicles are not permitted in the Wilderness, except on the few forest roads entering the area. All lakes, with the exception of large Fourmile Lake at the south end, can only be reached via hiking trail. Numerous trails of varying difficulty lead to the hundreds of small lakes in the shadow of Mount McLoughlin, southern Oregon’s highest peak. This perfectly conical volcanic peak is visible from many of the lakes within the Wilderness and is a major hiking destination.

The Sky Lakes Wilderness consists of three separate basins carved by glaciers and defined by volcanic action in the distant past. The northernmost basin, called the Seven Lakes Basin, is located south of the boundaries for Crater Lake National Park. Considered most scenic of the three lake basins, Seven Lakes is well-appointed with trails from both the east and west sides of the Wilderness boundaries. One of the most popular trails leads from the east side of the area, with the Sevenmile Trailhead starting at the end of Forest Road FR3334. The first lake reached is Grass Lake in about 4.5 miles. Grass Lake is grouped with several other lakes that form the headwaters of the Middle Branch Rogue River. Camping is permitted at the trailhead, but all camping here is ‘dispersed’ camping with no services. Alta, Grass and Middle Lakes are all about 30 acres in size, while nearby Cliff Lake is only nine acres. Cliff Lake has a reputation as the most scenic of all the lakes within the Sky Lakes Wilderness and receives many visitors during the short summer season. From the west side of the Cascades, Seven Lakes Trailhead begins near the end of FR3780. These four lakes are stocked with brook trout every other year and attract fly fishermen who enjoy the hike to their favorite fishing spot.

Sky Lakes Basin is located south of Seven Lakes Basin. Some of the lakes within the basin include Big Heavenly, Isherwood, Donna, Deep, Deer, Trapper, Margurette, Elizabeth, Sonja, Little Heavenly, Wizard and Trapper. Most of these small lakes hold brook trout and rainbow trout, with Isherwood and Big Heavenly Lakes occasionally stocked with cutthroat trout. From the west side of the Wilderness, Cherry Creek Trail begins at the end of FR 3450 and reaches Trapper Lake at about the five-mile mark. Only experienced backpackers with a solid knowledge of hiking from trail maps via compass should attempt cutting directly cross-country from FR3419 to Wizard Lake. The Cold Springs Trailhead is the easiest route to access the southernmost lakes in the group: Isherwood, Elizabeth and the Heavenly Lakes. The Sky Lakes Basin lakes are usually less-visited than Seven Lakes Basin and are often preferable on busy summer weekends, but more strenuous hiking is involved.

The most southerly of the three basins in the Sky Lakes Wilderness is the Blue Canyon Basin. Some of the lakes in this basin include Pear, Horseshoe, Island, Dee, Blue Canyon, Long, Bert, Camp, Woodpecker and Puck Lakes. The Blue Canyon Basin is quite popular but rarely as busy as the Sky Lakes Basin. Lakes on the east side of the basin can be reached via the Burt Lake Trail off from FR3659. Burt Lake Trail intersects both the Blue Canyon Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. The lakes can also be reached from the west side via Blue Canyon Trailhead, beginning at the end of FR3770. The Blue Canyon Basin is considered one of the best day hikes; the trail is a gradual downhill hike for about two miles. This trail is suitable for families with children in tow. The road leading to the trailhead is also very scenic, with beautiful vistas of Mount McLoughlin.

Fourmile Lake covers 900 acres; its southern end is outside of the Sky Lakes Wilderness but still within the Fremont-Winema National Forest. A Forest Service campground with 29 camping sites is located here, along with a boat ramp. Horse camping is accommodated, and the campground is relatively modern with hand-pumped drinking water, vault toilets, picnic tables and fire pits. The trailhead for the Long Lake Trail starts at the campground; from here, visitors must travel by horseback or on foot. Motorized boats are permitted on Fourmile Lake but not the others reached by trail.

The entire Sky Lakes Wilderness holds a wealth of wildlife, with elk herds summering in the northern third of the Wilderness. Black bears, coyotes, cougars, fishers, pine martens, golden-mantled ground squirrels, pika and other species also inhabit the Wilderness. Thousands of migrating birds pass through the area during October and November, often stopping at the lakes. Ospreys are often seen fishing here. The one drawback to summer visits is that mosquitoes also enjoy feasting on summer visitors, making early autumn one of the most pleasant times for hiking the Sky Lakes Basin. The numerous trails in the area vary in length and complexity and a good, current map from the nearby Ranger Station should always be part of the planning process for a visit to Sky Lakes Wilderness.

The cities of Klamath Falls south of the Sky Lakes Wilderness and the City of Medford west of the Wilderness on I-5 are well-appointed to provide visitors with plenty in the way of entertainment, supplies and choices of lodgings. Long a popular hiking and touring area, the area is full of hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts, resorts and guest cabins. Activities are plentiful in the area, from visiting the wineries of the Rogue Valley to skiing and snowshoeing in winter. Those less inclined toward strenuous hiking and wilderness exploration will find plenty of city-style activities to keep them occupied while the outdoor fans in the family enjoy a backpacking adventure. A more perfect vacation destination in the southern Cascades will be hard to find.

*Few statistics are available for these lakes.

Things to do at Sky Lakes Wilderness

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Sky Lakes Wilderness

  • Brook Trout
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Sky Lakes Wilderness Photo Gallery

Sky Lakes Wilderness Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

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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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