Located high in the Cascades, Clear Lake was formed by lava flows three millennia ago. Today, it is ringed by Douglas fir, Western Hemlock, Oregon grape, wild rose, beargrass, blackberries, ferns, vanilla leaf, and more. Native cutthroat trout call the lake home, although other trout varieties have made their way here as well. By the 1880s, Euro-American settlers were using trails and the Santiam Wagon Road to access the crystalline lake for recreational purposes. Not too long after, the Forest Reserve system (precursor to today’s USDA Forest Service) reserved land along the lakeshore; and in the 1910s, two companies filed official permits to build hydroelectric power infrastructure in the area. Only one permit was granted, and the fortunate company began to build a variety of cabins and outbuildings near the lake in preparation for the project. However, the hydroelectric plans were never realized, and the Forest Service revoked the permit.
In the decades following, tourists – now armed with motor vehicles and a more developed road system – expanded their recreational exploits. The Forest Service promoted outdoor recreation through permitting individuals to build recreational cabins, motor lodges, and related infrastructure. Outdoor recreation was, and still is, seen as a strong American value. To that end, just a generation later, during the Great Depression, the CCC constructed a humble, yet well-built, picnic shelter that is still in use today. The Civilian Conservation Corps was a Depression-era poverty relief program of the U.S. Government which put young men to work on public benefit projects, especially on public lands. Corps members would receive three square meals per day, and $30 per month – $25 of which was given directly to their families.
The Clear Lake Picnic Shelter is constructed of local, natural materials; those familiar with CCC-constructed buildings and structures will recognize the distinctive rustic style. Today it is still in use as a picnic shelter, as well as a warming hut in the winter for hunters and cross-country skiers.
Our campsite at Fish Lake Remount Depot is fascinating. The first structure at Fish Lake was a roadhouse built in 1867 by the Willamette Valley and Cascade Mountain Wagon Road Company to accommodate travelers along the Santiam Wagon Road. It became a Forest Service outpost in 1905. Activities at the site now focus on interpretation, historic preservation and landscape restoration. Learn more here. Volunteers on this project will experience beautiful natural surroundings while honoring the history of this incredibly special place.