Smith Lake (262)
- Clatsop County)
(From Atlas of Oregon Lakes, Johnson et al. 1985) Smith Lake is a long, narrow and shallow lake located in the northern Clatsop Plains about one mile from the Pacific Ocean. The name of the lake is derived from Solomon Smith, one of the earliest American settlers in western Oregon. Smith was a schoolteacher and one of the organizers of the provisional government in 1843. The vicinity of the lake has been continuously occupied since that time. Smith Lake is of the same geomorphic origin as nearby Coffenbury Lake, a typical coastal interdune lake situated between relict sand dunes trending north and south. The water level varies seasonally from about 15 feet above mean sea level in the fall to about 17.5 feet in the early spring. Inflow is by seepage and direct precipitation; outflow by seepage and evaporation. On occasion there is also outflow through a culvert at the north end to Cemetery Lake. However, depending on relative lake levels, the flow through the culvert may instead be into Smith Lake. The shoreline is now entirely in private ownership and homes are established on at least half of it. Access for the public is not provided, although two roads that cross the lake can be used to reach the water. Water rights to the City of Astoria exist for supplemental irrigation of 24 acres.
Drainage from the bog areas around the lake causes the water to be stained with dissolved organic matter. The high level of nearby residential development is probably another significant source of nutrients in the water. In recent years cattails, water lilies, iris and other macrophytes have steadily encroached upon the open water of Smith Lake, especially at the shallower southern end, even to the point that fishing and boating are nearly excluded. Water surface vegetation is very clearly illustrated in the accompanying air photo. The concentrations of major ions are slightly above average for coastal lakes in Oregon. Oxygen is sometimes depleted in the bottom of the lake, but in general the water is well-mixed and shows little tendency for stratification. The boggy nature of the lake and surrounding area is reflected by the microflora, which has been noted to consist largely of desmids. Desmids prefer water of low calcium and magnesium concentrations, neutral to acid pH, and low alkalinity. All of these conditions are found in Smith Lake.
Smith Lake has been altered physically several times over the years and shortened from the south end by a succession of road fills. In 1969 a narrow channel was dredged along a section near the west shore. At a depth of about two or three feet a layer of clean, white sand was encountered. The material removed was entirely peaty material composed of decomposed plant residues, huge rhizomes of water lilies and live roots and stems of various macrophytes. McHugh (1979) suggests that lakes of this type, sand dune lakes that originally had clean sand bottoms, provide an opportunity for reclamation by the dredging of bottom deposits. If the accumulated organic material can be removed to reveal a nutrient-low substrate, a lower trophic level could presumably be attained. As it is, Smith Lake is classified as eutrophic.