Blue River Lake
- Lane County)
(From Atlas of Oregon Lakes, Johnson et al. 1985). Blue River Lake is a long, narrow, winding flood control reservoir formed in 1968 by damming the Blue River 1.8 miles above its confluence with the McKenzie River. It was built here by the Corps of Engineers after strong opposition developed toward the construction of a dam on the mainstem of the McKenzie. There are actually two rockfill dams, Blue River Dam and Saddle Dam, that impound the waters of Blue River and several of its tributaries. The lake was named for Blue River which was named for its remarkable color. It lies in a beautiful setting nestled among the rugged slopes of the Western Cascades. Rough rock pinnacles and outcroppings are common throughout the area. Around the turn of the century gold was traced to the Gold Hill area immediately northwest of Blue River Lake on Quartz Creek and mining boomed for ten years until the supply was exhausted.
The drainage basin of Blue River Lake is covered with a western hemlock and Douglas fir forest and is almost entirely within the Willamette National Forest. Some of the land adjacent to the lake is in private ownership and commercial timber has been harvested from much of it. The Corps of Engineers also administers a large part of the shoreline. Steep shoreline slopes restrict the amount of flat land around the lake, thereby limiting the potential for public access and recreation. The Forest Service maintains one campground and an unpaved boat ramp at the north end of the lake. Late summer use is frequently limited by reservoir draw-down. The lake is stocked annually with cutthroat trout and also has native cutthroat trout and coho salmon. In addition to fishing the lake is popular for swimming and water skiing.
Water transparency in Blue River Lake is good (17.1 feet; 5.2 meters), although high values of suspended solids have been reported by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. This has apparently caused a minor problem in fish production. Major ion concentrations are average for Willamette Valley reservoirs. Although water transparency is very high, the concentrations of phosphorus and chlorophyl suggest moderate productivity and mesotrophic conditions. Blue-green algae have been observed in the lake which suggests higher trophic conditions than indicated by other data. However, because there is no evidence of oxygen depletion, Blue River Lake is classified as mesotrophic.