Applegate Lake at Full Pool 29-Apr-2017

Appelgate Lake Oregon

Since we moved to Southern Oregon, we’ve done any number of hikes around and near Applegate Lake, a reservoir  at the head of the Upper Applegate River Valley, owing to the accessibility of its trails almost all year round.  But for any number of reasons, we’ve never visited the lake when its near to full; that is, when it looks like a lake and not giant mud-rimmed bathtub. The desire to see it at least once as a lake was strong, so when its pool elevation reached 1983.17 feet, with 1987.00 feet being full pool (dam hydrograph), it was time for a visit to view the waters.  The LovedOne’s library volunteer duties kept her off this hike, so we’ll be doing another one here soon so she too can see the waters.

To reach the French Gulch Trailhead, I had to cross the dam, and one look at the intake structure made it clear that the lake was almost full to overflowing.

Applegate Lake Oregon
The intake structure is showing in January 2017
Applegate Lake Oregon
The intake structure just above the water in April 2017

From the trailhead, I headed east on the Payette Trail (USFS #970), around the now well-watered French Gulch Arm of the lake,

Applegate Lake Oregon
French Gulch Arm with Collins Mountain on the horizon

past an osprey squawking and wobbling on a limb near its nest,

Applegate Lake Oregon
An osprey goes out on a limb

to the Payette’s junction with the Calsh Trail (USFS #971), took that up to the Dagelma Trailhead,

Applegate Lake Oregon
Up the Calsh Trail #971

and then descended the Osprey Trail (USFS #973), through pleasantly green meadows and forests (but with a lot of poison oak in evidence),

Applegate Lake Oregon
Down the Osprey Trail #973

to the lake’s Squaw Creek Arm and the Payette Trailhead.

Applegate Lake Oregon
Looking west across Squaw Creek Arm

I continued on the Payette Trail across the head of the Arm over the Corps’ very robust bridge and just before the intermittent creek in Spring Gulch, turned south up what appears to be called the Witcome Stock Driveway. Near as I can figure, it was used in conjunction with a barbed wire fence to funnel errant cattle away from cavorting in the reservoir. It’s hard to tell if it still serves that purpose. My guess is that the driveway was built along with the reservoir back in the late 1970s and is now little used, since parts are now only accessible by horse or foot and some large trees have fallen across it (destroying the fence in the process). Still it’s pretty easy to follow on foot and provides a means of making a loop with the Payette Trail.

Applegate Lake Oregon
About 0.5 miles along the stock driveway

Views from the driveway are mostly blocked by trees but there is one place where you can see the lake and Little Grayback Mountain,

Applegate Lake Oregon
Looking northeast toward Little Grayback Mountain from the stock driveway

and another where you can make out a sliver of Collins Mountain and Point 4343.

Applegate Lake Oregon
Looking northwest toward Point 4343 from the stock driveway

About 2.6 miles along the driveway, I came to a ridge that runs west toward to a point on the lake where it’s possible to look south to the Red Buttes. Since today’s hike was all about a full lake, I left the driveway here and went cross-country down the relatively open top of the ridge – trying to avoid the poison oak as much as possible (in two days or so, I’ll know how that worked out).

Applegate Lake Oregon
Cross-country down the relatively open crest of the ridge

I reconnected with the Payette Trail right at the spot where you can see the Red Buttes at the south end of the lake.

Applegate Lake Oregon
Looking south toward the Red Buttes from the Payette Trail

I then turned east on the Payette, stopping to enjoy the ring pattern in a huge, weathered, but intact, tree root that had washed ashore here.

Applegate Lake Oregon
A tree trunk etched by water and weather

As I followed the trail east back into Salmon Arm, clouds coming in ahead of Sunday morning’s weak storm worked to accentuate the blue, green, and turquoise colors in the water.

Applegate Lake Oregon
Looking northeast toward Little Grayback Mountain
Applegate Lake Oregon
Looking north toward the dam
Applegate Lake Oregon
Looking north from the side arm at Tipsu Tyee Camp

The Payette Trail gets a lot of use and is usually in good condition, but this year’s wet weather combined with some recent high winds collapsed the trail and blocked it with fallen trees about a mile or so west of Tipsu Tyee Camp.

Applegate Lake Oregon
The Payette Trail damaged by slumping ground and fallen trees

I worked my way back around to the head of Squaw Creek Arm, with a view toward snow covered Stricklin Butte,

Applegate Lake Oregon
Stricklin Butte (with snow) and Collins Mountain from the head of Salmon Arm

then retraced by steps up the Osprey Trail and down the Calsh Trail, then back along the Payette Trail to the French Gulch Trailhead. By the time I got back to my car, more clouds were appearing on the horizon,

Applegate Lake Oregon
Building cloud cover as seen from the head of French Gulch Arm

and soon a milky – photograph numbing – overcast was in place, making it an excellent moment to call it a day. A moderate lollipop loop (12 miles round-trip; 1,400 of elevation gain) on trail, use trail, and cross-country in perfect weather with excellent views of Applegate Lake as a lake.

Applegate Lake Oregon
My lollipop loop track to and from the French Gulch trailhead

2 thoughts on “Applegate Lake at Full Pool 29-Apr-2017

Add yours

  1. You should go again – it’s kinda wierd (but nice) to see Applegate as a lake, if only for 2-3 months.


  2. Great to see that lake that full! We were there not too long ago and did the Payette out quite a ways from Dagelma – 10 miles total – but the lake wasn’t that full yet.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: