Squaw Lakes (Jackson)

Reachcode: 17100309000673 | Area: 55.0 acres | Shoreline: 1.7 mi | View on Interactive Map

(From Atlas of Oregon Lakes, Johnson et al. 1985)  The Squaw Lakes are a pair of scenic mountain lakes in the upper drainage of the Applegate River basin about three miles north of the California state line. The larger of the two, known as Big or Lower Squaw Lake, is 46 acres in size. Little or Upper Squaw, 14 acres in size, is about one-half mile southeast of the larger lake and drains into it. Use is strictly recreational and access is limited by design so that the area can be managed as part of a "primitive" area by the Forest Service. The rough, gravel road to Big Squaw Lake thus stops about 200 yards short from where boats and camping gear must be carried on foot. Camping is by permit only and the Forest Service has designated 13 separate units around the lakes and along the stream between them.

Although the lakes and drainage basin are within the Rogue River National Forest there are some patches of private land. The lakes themselves were at one time privately owned. It has been recommended by Jackson County planners that the federal government purchase some of this land to allow coordinated management. A high priority for management is the protection of spawning grounds in the connecting stream and in the tributary to the upper lake. Grazing and the selected cutting of timber in the basin do not appear to have spoiled the primitive character of the area. In spite of the difficult access (or perhaps because of it) and a ban on the use of motorboats, the Squaw Lakes are very popular with outdoor enthusiasts, particularly anglers. Good catches are made of rainbow and trout, especially in spring and early fall. Crappies, bluegills and catfish are also taken.

The data presented in this report are from Big Squaw Lake, an unusually deep lake for its size (mean depth = 54 feet). The concentrations of major ions are surprisingly high for a pristine water body, especially of calcium and magnesium. Alkalinity and conductivity are also exceptionally high and pH has been observed to exceed a value of 8. Nevertheless, phosphorus and chlorophyl concentrations are low and the water is quite transparent (Secchi disk depth = 20.3 feet; 6.2 meters); these are indications of mesotrophic, nearly oligotrophic, conditions. Nevertheless, biological productivity appears to be high in the lake and the natural rate of replenishment of fish species is impressive. A diverse assemblage of macrophytes develops in the shallow waters and there is some evidence of oxygen depletion in the deeper water. A phytoplankton sample taken on 7/13/82 showed the-flagellate Ceratium hirundinella to be the dominant species. Dinobryon sertularia, Melosira granulata, and Asterionella formosa were also observed.