Oregon Trails: Lake of the Woods

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LAKE OF THE WOODS, Ore. — Now that May is here, many people’s thoughts of outdoor recreation turn to camping and outdoor activities at mountain lakes in our area. One of the most popular mountain lake resorts in Southern Oregon is also one of the oldest.

Fresh in a coat of new red paint, chairs are lined up along the shore near the swimming beach at Lake of the Woods resort. The docks are all in place and some of the boats are freshly painted and ready to rent for the summer. This is the 91st year lake of the woods resort has opened its doors to people seeking fresh mountain air, and all the other experiences that lure people to a pristine mountain lake.

“We typically work on the opening preparations the latter part of April and May weather dependent, but last year we had so much snow that we had kind of a late start. This year we have Aspen campground open early,” says George Gregory, Resort Owner-Manager. “The resort is looking better than ever, and we have our docks. And we have a few more boats to get ready. And a few more preps for the summer season. But we’re really happy with the weather, and just the number of people that are coming up too.”

Lake of the Woods has been an attraction for the adventurous for more than a hundred years. Actually, in 1870 it’s reported that Captain Applegate named the lake and built a cabin. There are now more than 200 cabins around the lake.

“In 1998, when I came to work up here, we had 8 rental cabins. And now we have 32! Um, the RV Park has been completely remodeled. We are in the middle of a multi-year remodel of the main lodge restaurant,” says George. “And just improving the facilities overall. Last year we built a, a gazebo down by the lakeshore for weddings, special events, and uh, eventually hope to maybe even have music down there.”

George Gregory says some of the original cabins are still there and in use.

As George Gregory recalls: “Our first cabin, cabin number three, we found some evidence in the old files that it was built in approximately 1922. That’s where the 91 years comes in. the resort permit was first issued a couple years later, but there was a trading post here. Just a sawmill, and the area’s actually been, uh, in use by early settlers and explorers since 1870. By the early 1900’s there were residences popping up around the lake. And there are currently 217 summer homes. 3 organizational camps. The 3 forest service facilities, Aspen Point campground, Rainbow bay, and Sunset campground as well as the resort! And all the facilities here have been in high use since the 20’s.”

The lodge was rebuilt after a fire in 1949 or 1950, but the store, the marina building all are original.

“There used to be a pier that went out there. Large timbered pier and then it had a floating portion. And that was constructed in about 1924 and the boat launch actually was on the other side of the building what we have as the swim beach now,” George says.

Getting here was not always easy. There was no direct road from the Rogue Valley, except for Dead Indian Memorial Road until Highway 140 was finished in the early 1960’s.

“Speaking with one of the old homeowners from Klamath Falls used to be 2 days in the Model “T” to drive up here in the 30’s and sometimes you had to fix the road to get here,” George says.

Now, Lake of the Woods is within an hour’s drive or less, from both the Klamath Basin and Rogue Valley, winter or summer. 90 years ago when the Lake of the Woods resort first started, you probably wouldn’t have seen much in the way of any kind of power boats on the lake.

Now you see everything from fishing boats and, later in the summer, when things warm up a little bit, you’ll see a lot of water skiers out here as well. And with homes on the West shore and around the South end of the lake, this is a place that draws thousands of people every weekend.

Lake of the Woods also manages the three forest service campgrounds at the lake, and is currently refurbishing the old guard station near the Westside road junction to be used as a rental facility as well.