Every year, in the heart of Central Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, there is a lake that mysteriously drains down a hole. It fills up to capacity each winter, quickly starts to drain every spring, and transforms itself into a quiet meadow by summer.
Lost Lake, near the small town of Sisters and the Hoodoo Ski Resort, is a 79-acre watery haven during the rainy months. Streams and creeks are running high and fast, and this mountain basin fills up like a bathtub. When the rains slow down, so do the streams, but the cycle of the lake doesn’t stop there. The water recedes, pours into a 7-foot wide hole, and simply disappears.
Geologists speculate the culprit is a collapsed lava tube created during a period of intense volcanic activity over 12,000 years ago. The tube has formed a slow drain that feeds into the rock-hard honeycomb of old lava underfoot (or under-lake), the water running into a tributary of the McKenzie River and surrounding aquifer, eventually ending up 6 miles away in Clear Lake.
When Lost Lake is gulping water in winter it can keep up with the constant draining. But by spring, when flow is low and the drain is wide open, the lake lives up to its name. One request: please don’t try and plug the hole. It won’t work, and it only makes more work for the Forest Service. They work hard enough already.