Three Creek Lake
- Deschutes County)
(From Atlas of Oregon Lakes, Johnson et al. 1985) Three Creek Lake is a beautiful and pristine mountain lake located high in the Central Oregon Cascades. Although it is a natural lake, the water level is controlled by a small dam constructed at the outlet in the 1930s. About a mile north of the lake is a meadow where three streams (the outfall of Three Creek Lake, that of Little Three Creek Lake, and Snow Ditch Creek) come together to form Three Creek. The natural flow of the stream runs north past Three Creek Butte and into Squaw Creek; however, most of the water is diverted south of Three Creek Butte into the continuation of Snow Creek Ditch and eventually into Tumalo Creek. The water is used for irrigation of agricultural land north of Bend. Three Creek Lake thus serves for storage of irrigation waters, in addition to its role as a recreation site. It is a very popular destination for outdoor recreationists, although it is usually not accessible until June. The lake supports both eastern brook trout and rainbow trout. The rainbow trout are stocked annually by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, but the population of brook trout is self-sustaining. No motorboats are allowed on the water. Excellent angling is also available at nearby Little Three Creek Lake.
A very dramatic backdrop to Three Creek Lake is formed by Tam McArthur Rim, a semi-circular volcanic cliff above the lake on the south side. Lewis Ankeny "Tam" McArthur (1883 - 1951) made substantial contributions to the establishment of accurate Oregon geographic and historic data, and was the original author of Oregon Geographic Names, an essential book for those interested in the history and geography of the state. The glacially-carved rim is the dominant feature in the small, steep drainage basin that contributes surface runoff to the lake. Two small streams contribute inflow primarily in response to snowmelt in spring and early summer.
Water chemistry in Three Creek Lake is typical of mountain lakes in the Cascades, with low concentrations of ions, alkalinity, and conductivity. Phosphorus and chlorophyl concentrations are also low and the transparency is high; the bottom is visible even at the deepest portion of the lake. Because of the high altitude, water temperatures remain quite low even in summer, and biological productivity is low. By all indicators, Three Creek Lake is oligotrophic.