Wickiup Reservoir (Deschutes)

Reachcode: 17070301000907 | Area: 10166.4 acres | Shoreline: 53.2 mi | View on Interactive Map

(From Atlas of Oregon Lakes, Johnson et al. 1985). Wickiup Reservoir, when full, is the largest body of water in the Deschutes National Forest and is the second largest reservoir in Oregon; only Owyhee Lake (reservoir) is larger in surface area. However, Wickiup Reservoir is a relatively shallow impoundment (mean depth 20 feet) and several in the state have greater storage capacity. The history of this impoundment on the Deschutes River began in the 1920s when it became apparent that the flow of water in the river and its tributaries was insufficient to supply all the demands placed on it. Irrigated agriculture had become an important segment of the economy of Central Oregon, and with maximum runoff occurring in spring and early summer supplies were inadequate in late summer when agricultural demand is greatest. Construction of small water storage facilities along the river began in the 1920s and in 1921 the Bureau of Reclamation began to make plans for two large reservoirs, Wickiup and Crane Prairie, on the upper Deschutes. Waters above Bend had already been withdrawn from further appropriation in anticipation of this Deschutes Project by the State Engineer. For Wickiup Reservoir 200,000 acre-feet were appropriated for storage; for Crane Prairie Reservoir 50,000 acre-feet. The water was identified for the irrigation of agricultural land downstream. Preliminary work on Wickiup Dan was started in the summer of 1939 by Civilian Conservation Corps workers. Work slowed during World War II and the 100-foot high, earth-fill dam was not completed until 1949.

The Deschutes Project thus consists of Wickiup Dam and Reservoir, Crane Prairie Dam and Reservoir, Haystack Dam and Reservoir, North Unit Main Canal and lateral system, and the Crooked River Pumping Plant. The project furnishes a full supply of irrigation water for about 50,000 acres of land within the North Unit Irrigation District, and a supplemental supply for more than 47,000 acres in the Central Oregon Irrigation District and Crook County Improvement District No. 1. These are lands downstream on the Deschutes River near Madras. Storage for the North Unit Irrigation District is provided specifically by Wickiup Reservoir, and releases from the reservoir are diverted from the river at North Canal Dam near Bend. Water is carried to the project lands by the North Unit Main Canal and distributed through a system of laterals. Although the waters released from the reservoir are primarily for irrigation, in cooperation with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife sufficient water is released at all times to maintain a productive fishery in the Deschutes River downstream.

Wickiup Reservoir receives the drainage from the Deschutes River Basin above the point of impoundment; this is a forested region entirely within the Deschutes National Forest. Primary inflow is from the Deschutes River, water which has been stored and released from Crane Prairie Reservoir five miles upstream. Several other small surface streams contribute inflow, including Davis Creek which drains four miles underground from Davis Lake beneath a large lava flow before surfacing. Davis Creek is fed by a flow from several large springs which discharge an average of 250 cfs in total. When the reservoir is full, water backs up to the lava flow, submerging the springs.

The site of Wickiup Reservoir has a long record of human habitation. Long before local residents considered the Wickiup area for a reservoir, Indians had used the site as a campground for their fall hunting and fishing expeditions (Hatton 1980). There is also archaelogical evidence of Indians living in the area more than 10,000 years ago. In later years, ranchers who grazed their livestock in the basin applied the name "Wikiup" to the area because of the huts left behind by the Indians. Originally, the site was spelled Wikiup, but since 1939 the official spelling has been Wickiup. Today, Wickiup Reservoir is perhaps the busiest in terms of recreational use among the many lakes accessible from the Cascade Lakes Highway. It is used extensively by fishermen. A large number of scrap fish (chubs) have occupied the reservoir for years, yet a productive sport fishery has been maintained. A combination of large brown trout, rainbow trout, and coho salmon seem to thrive and hold the chubs in check. Many kokanee have also been caught in recent years. The reservoir is noted for its brown trout fishing, not in terms of numbers but in size; they are taken mostly by trolling. Large rainbow trout are also taken; one productive method is wading the shorelines and flycasting to surface activity. Boats can be rented at South Twin Lake, across the road from Wickiup's North Campground. Davis Creek and the Deschutes arms have several good Forest Service campgrounds and are popular fishing areas for both boaters and wading shore fishermen. There are several sites for launching boats on the lake, and there is also much angling from thedam. After mid-summer, the water level is drawn down to supply downstream users and the surface area is reduced considerably. At that time extensive mudflats are exposed, making access to the water more difficult. The deepest part of the reservoir is along the old channel of the Deschutes river, and contains sufficient water for boating and fishing even at maximum drawdown.

The conductivity (reflecting major ion concentrations) in Wickiup Reservoir is higher than in most other Cascade lakes (51 umhos/cm), although nearby South Twin Lake has an even higher conductivity (116 umhs/cm) due to springs entering the lake. Major ions in Wickiup may be derived from similar sources. The phosphorus concentration is also higher (0.033 mg/1) than in Cascade lakes generally, and much of it is probably derived from Crane Prairie Reservoir which has very high concentrations of phosphorus (.108 mg/1) and empties into Wickiup. Additional phosphorus is recycled from the bottom sediments in Wickiup Reservoir because it is so shallow. The phosphorus supports a moderate phytoplankton population. The sample reported in this survey shows a very high density, but the size of Chromulina is quite small and therefore the total biomass is similar to other lakes in the region. Interestingly, Chromulina was also dominant in Davis Lake, which flows into Wickiup through underground channels. Other algal species observed in the nannoplankton sample include many periphytic diatoms, or diatoms that grow attached to substrates and most often occur in flowing water. A net phytoplankton sample consisted almost entirely of Gloeotrichia echinulata, a colonial blue-green alga that is clearly visible to lake users. Other algae include Asterionella formosa and Fragilaria crotonensis. In spite of the moderate amount of phytoplankton, water transparency is very good (26 feet; 8 meters).

Wickiup Reservoir is classified as mesotrophic. Although the phosphorus concentration is quite high, phytoplankton densities (hence, chlorophyl concentrations) remain low to moderate. The reservoir was stratified at 26 feet (8 meters) on 7/17/82 and there was no dissolved oxygen depletion in the hypolimnion. There are some macrophytes present in some of the shallow bays in this dendritic reservoir, but they are not over-abundant.