Sparks Lake (Deschutes)

Reachcode: 17070301005459 | Area: 316.3 acres | Shoreline: 11.1 mi | View on Interactive Map

(From Atlas of Oregon Lakes, Johnson et al. 1985)  Sparks Lake is a picturesque lake east of the crest of the Cascade Range, lying along the much travelled Cascade Lakes Highway. It is perhaps best known for the spectacular view it provides of South Sister, which rises nearly 5000 feet above the lake to the north. It lies also in the shadow of the symmetrical slope of Bachelor Butte. Sparks Lake was named for "Lige" Sparks, a pioneer stockman in Central Oregon. A wagon road from Bend to the lake was completed in 1920 and resulted in greatly increased visitor use. It is a water body popular with fishermen and canoeists who like to explore the various shallow inlets. Motors are allowed for travelling on the lake, but fishing while the motor is operating is illegal. Eastern brook trout and rainbow trout are stocked and will occasionally grow as large as 16 inches. A nice Forest Service campground is available just off the highway, adjacent to Soda Creek.

Sparks Lake is a shallow remnant of a larger and deeper lake which has now nearly filled in with sediment and encroaching vegetation. Although the surface area is fairly extensive in spring and early summer, most of it is less than two feet deep and the maximum depth is only about seven feet. The spring runoff period is when the surface area is greatest and water spreads over low-lying marsh areas. Toward the end of the summer the lake shrinks again, leaving acres of green meadowland as pasture for cattle. A low dam at the outlet now maintains summer water level at a higher level than under the natural regime and the Forest Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recently plugged leaks in the lava to reduce seepage loss. The marshy surroundings originally provided habitat for many waterfowl, but the numbers appear to have declined in the last few decades. Several surface streams drain into Sparks Lake: Goose Creek, fed by glaciers on South Sister; Fall Creek, emanating from the alpine Green Lakes; and Soda Creek, fed in part by Soda Springs and in part by glaciers on the south side of Broken Top. On 10/7/66 a glacial moraine, holding back the water in an alpine lake at the foot of Crook Glacier on Broken Top, broke and sent an estimated 50 million gallons of water down Soda Creek. Flood waters carried mud, logs, and boulder debris across the Cascade Lakes Highway and into Sparks Meadow. About 40 percent of the meadow was covered by silt and an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 tons of sediment were deposited.

Water in Sparks Lake is low in dissolved ions and alkalinity. It is very clear, but the lake is much too shallow to allow a Secchi disk measurement of transparency. Phosphorus concentration is moderate, but there are no algal blooms. Sparks Lake is distinctly oligotrophic.