Paulina Lake (Deschutes)

Reachcode: 17070302000352 | Area: 1370.8 acres | Shoreline: 6.5 mi | View on Interactive Map

(From Atlas of Oregon Lakes, Johnson et al. 1985). Paulina Lake is one of two lakes occupying Newberry Crater, a volcanic caldera nearly five miles in diameter located at the summit of the Paulina Mountains. Paulina Lake is slightly larger in surface area and 40 feet lower in elevation than its neighbor, East Lake. It is one of many geographic features in Oregon which carries the name of a well-known, nineteenth century Snake Indian. Chief Paulina is believed to have been responsible for a number of conflicts between Indians and white settlers in eastern Oregon during the 1860s. He was killed in the summer of 1867 after raiding several ranches in the John Day country. Appropriate or not, the name is commonly used in this area: e.g., Paulina Lake in the Paulina Mountains is surrounded by the rim of the caldera whose high point is Paulina Peak. Paulina Creek is the outlet for the lake and joins the Deschutes River 15 miles downstream in Paulina Prairie.

Volcanic activity, similar to that which created Crater Lake, is responsible for the caldera of Newberry Crater (Williams 1953). However, there are significant differences. This is a shield type volcano, with a 20-mile base, a type which forms over "hot spots" where lava is flowing from deep within the earth. The volcano has more than 150 cinder cones on its flanks. After radial drainage gradually reduced support for the higher slopes, the conical shaped peak collapsed. This event is estimated to have occurred 20,000 to 25,000 years ago and explosive activity has occurred at intervals ever since, most recently about 2050 years ago. There are lava flows on the outer slopes of Newberry Volcano that may be as recent as 1000 years old.

Snow and ice associated with the last stages of the Pleistocene Epoch accumulated in the caldera to depths of several hundred feet, and flowing ice helped to scour the outlet from Paulina Lake which cuts through the flank of the crater (Russell 1905). Ash and lapilli from late phases of volcanic activity formed deposits that partly sealed the bed of the lake basins. It is apparent that the caldera was originally occupied by one large lake, but subsequent volcanic action built up a barrier of subsidiary cinder cones and lava flows, running north and south across the middle of the depression, to form two lakes. By the time the recent eruptions within the crater had ceased, about 2050 years ago, the two lakes were separated, and probably each was near its present water level.

The rim of Newberry Crater rises steeply for several hundred feet around the lakes to a high point of 7984 feet at Paulina Peak, and it has been breached only on the west side to form a perennial outlet to the Deschutes River by way of Paulina Creek. The steep slopes support a scattered forest of lodgepole pine and ponderosa pine, interspersed with some hemlocks and alders. However, much of the drainage basin is covered with bare rock.

The entire area of the Newberry Crater, including East Lake and its drainage basin is topographically tributary to Paulina Lake. Phillips and Van Denburgh (1968) have described the hydrologic characteristics of the two lakes. East Lake has no surface outlet and loses water entirely by evaporation from the surface and by subsurface seepage. A portion, but not all, of this seepage makes its way into Paulina Lake through the volcanic obstruction between the two lakes. Thus, surface inflow to Paulina Lake is only from the eight square mile area as noted on the attached map. There are no perennial streams, but considerable runoff during the snowmelt season. Water is lost from the lake by surface evaporation and by discharge through Paulina Creek.

Although East and Paulina Lakes are favorites with fishermen, both were devoid of fish until a Central Oregon sportsman packed in trout late in the nineteenth century. Since then they have been stocked by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. It is estimated now that over 60,000 anglers visit the lakes each year, although they are among the last lakes to open in the spring because of road blockage by heavy snows. Record German brown trout taken from East Lake have enhanced its reputation over Paulina Lake, but the larger lake has been a consistent producer from year to year, with good catches of rainbow trout and occasional eastern brook trout. Several campgrounds are at the lake, maintained by the Deschutes National Forest. There are a number of summer homes on land leased from the Forest Service and a private resort on the west end.

Paulina Lake is one of the deeper lakes in Oregon, with a mean depth of 163 feet and a maximum depth of over 250 feet. The walls of the caldera are steep, and only a very small proportion of the lake (three percent) is shallower than 10 feet, thereby restricting the growth of macrophytes to a narrow fringe around the shoreline. Myriophyllum and Elodea are common macrophytes. The lake develops a distinct thermal stratification in the summer, with a thermocline at a depth of 50 to 60 feet (15 to 18 meters). Deep water remains very cold (39 degrees Fahrenheit, 4 degrees Celsius, below 200 feet) all year, and in the winter the surface frequently ices over. Because of the high elevation of the lake and its large volume, surface water also remains cool during the summer. Maximum summer temperature of surface water is about 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius).

The water chemistry of Paulina Lake is unusual. Concentrations of major ions are very high for a lake not in an evaporation basin, and signficantly higher than the concentrations observed in nearby East Lake. Alkalinity (340 ppm) and conductivity (560 umhos/cm) are also higher in Paulina Lake than in East Lake (103 ppm; 310 umhos/cm). The concentration of sulfate, however, is much lower in Paulina Lake than in East Lake. Both lakes are strongly influenced by subsurface flow of water from hot springs which contribute much of the unusually high concentrations of ions. The presence of hot springs at East Lake is well known, but less known is the presence of hot springs at Paulina Lake, with water temperatures of 96-113 degrees Fahrenheit. These springs were discovered in 1911, but plans to establish a health resort never materialized. However, hot alkaline springs, charged with sulfur and soda and having a temperature of 120 degrees F, became the site for a resort located on the southeastern shoreline of East Lake.

Printable Lake Map

The list below includes results of zebra and quagga mussels surveys conducted by the Center for Lakes and Reservoirs and other agencies. The results "non-detect" and "results pending" indicate that surveys for zebra and quagga mussels were conducted, but none were detected or results are pending. For more details on zebra and quagga mussel monitoring, please visit the Online Mussel Monitoring Map.

Date Status/Species Source
Aug. 28, 2013 non detect Portland State University
July 31, 2013 non detect Portland State University
Sept. 12, 2012 non detect Portland State University
Aug. 23, 2012 non detect Portland State University
Oct. 1, 2010 results pending Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife
Aug. 12, 2010 results pending Portland State University
July 22, 2010 results pending Portland State University
No plant data available.