It’s only fitting to start this month-long series with a place that will forever be ingrained in the hearts and memories of anyone who spent their childhood years cooling off on the doorstep of Mount Hood, trolling for trout in the warm breeze, combing the shallows for crawdads, pitching tents and building campfires, roasting marshmallows over glowing coals, falling asleep with pitch and pine needles stuck to your feet and waking up at sunrise to the smell pancakes and bacon and the joy of having nothing to do but relax and enjoy another day at Laurance Lake.
About 10 minutes south of downtown Parkdale (Clear Creek Road to Laurance Lake Road), Laurance Lake is a reservoir for Middle Fork Irrigation District, which serves customers in the greater Parkdale area. Fed by the Clear Branch of the Middle Fork of the Hood River, the lake is clean, clear and cool all year, and although water levels can drop significantly in the late summer as temperatures and irrigation needs rise, there’s always enough of water for swimming, fishing, boating, paddling and various other cooling-off activities.
Laurance is also (arguably) the best fly-fishing lake around Mount Hood, due largely to the fact that angling regulations don’t allow bait or artificial bait or the keeping/killing of native fish. The lake is also stocked with rainbow trout at least twice a season by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The orientation of the lake and its adjacent canyons tend to funnel west winds in the summer, which helps keep temps down on hot summer days but can frustrate boaters and fisherman and keep folks floating on air mattresses, tubes and inflatable crocodiles busy paddling away from the rock dam at the east end of the lake. The wind is often strong enough, for those so inclined, to sail, windsurf or kiteboard in the long, narrow section of the lake.
A small campground at the southern end of the lake has several walk-in and a few drive-in sites for $12 per unit and day-use fees for the lake apply to anywhere beyond the bridge at the entrance of the campground.