I have a confession to make: I can’t swim. Yeah. I plug my nose when I jump into water over 5’7” deep. Or if I fall into water accidentally, which is more likely. The nasty truth: I don’t want to get my hair wet. Faced with the prospect of being in the water, and needing to get from Point A to Point B, I resort to dog paddling.
Yet, I’m tremendously intrigued by water. I’m a Pisces. Which might explain it. I was born under a water sign. My personality is characterized by two fish tied together by their tails, swimming in opposite directions. I’m naturally conflicted.
Which perhaps explains why swimming fascinates me. Particularly when I see kids jumping off boats and docks, arms outstretched, plunging into the great unknown.
I recently asked Sue Boettner – national swimming competitor, recreation program coordinator for Bend Parks and Recreation, and mother of two – about the best places in Central Oregon to splash around.
I don’t know if anyone has ever counted the number of lakes in Central Oregon. But there are a lot. Let’s call it eleventy hundred. In other words: a whole lot. Here are Sue’s top picks for mountain lake swim spots, and a little dip into the details of each one.
1. Scout Lake: Kids will like this warm little lake, with a large beach just 50 yards from the parking lot. A picnic area and nearby campgrounds make this a perfect gathering place for families and groups. To get there from Bend, Oregon: Take Highway 20 west, approximately 13 miles past Sisters to Forest Road 2070/Suttle Lake Road. Stay left until you see the signs to Scout Lake. Nearby Lodge Suttle Lake offers exquisite lodging, dining, spa and event facilities, and as well as rustic cabins.
2. Cultus Lake: A great swimming lake for younger kids because it has a nice beach area and sandbar. Nearby Cultus Lake Resort offers lodging, dining and marina rentals. Visitors also have three nearby campgrounds to choose from: Cultus Lake Campground, Cultus North Shore Campground, and West Cultus Campground. To get there from Bend, Oregon: Take Highway 97 South to Sunriver. Exit onto Highway 40, continuing past Sunriver to Highway 46. Turn left (south) and travel approximately 2 miles to Cultus Lake Resort.
3. Elk Lake: With great views of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top and South Sister in the background, Elk Lake makes a great summer swimming spot. A small offshore swimming dock floats near the marina. Elk Lake Resort offers dining, marina rentals (kayaks, canoes, standup paddle and paddleboats) and lodging. Lodging includes cabins, camping and RV spots. To get there from Bend, Oregon: Take 14th Street/Century Drive south 30 miles (turns into the Cascade Lakes Highway). Pass Mt. Bachelor and continue on approximately 10 miles until you see the Elk Lake Resort sign. Turn left at the sign.
4. North Twin Lake: The northern twin of two lakes south of Bend offers nice warm water, primitive camping, a swimming beach, and a dirt boat ramp (no motors allowed). The campground has latrines, but no drinking water. Twin Lakes Resort is at South Twin Lake. To get there from Bend, Oregon: Take Highway 97 south 17 miles to Vandervert Road. Exit right. Take the 3rd left onto S. Century Drive, stay right on S. Century Drive. Continue onto Foster Road/#4205/S, Century Drive (16 miles). Turn left at Road 4260.
5. South Twin Lake: Good swimming in this mountain lake, with the bonus of rowboats, kayaks, canoes and paddleboats for rent, at Twin Lakes Resort. The resort also offers lakeside dining and a general store. To get there from Bend, Oregon: Travel south on Highway 97 for 23.4 miles. Turn right on Burgess Road and go approximately 11 miles to stop sign. Turn left on South Century Drive (Highway 42) and travel 4.5 miles. Turn left on Forest Service Road 4260 and go approximately 2 miles.
6. Juniper Swim and Fitness Center: For those wanting an urban splash to cool the kids off, Bend Park and Recreation has built a fantastic swimming facility: Juniper Swim and Fitness Center. In addition to indoor and outdoor pools, Juniper offers swimming lessons, a fitness center, group exercise classes and personal training. To get there from downtown Bend, Oregon: Go east on NW Greenwood Avenue approximately 1 mile to NE 6th Street. Turn right and travel .1 mile to 80 NE 6th Street.