Directions: Take I-84 East to Cascade Locks and cross Bridge Of The Gods ($2 toll). Go right onto Highway 14 and after a little over 14.5 miles take a left onto Cook Underwood Rd. Follow this road for about 5 miles and take a left onto Willard Road. Willard Road turns into Oklahoma Road, follow it a short distance until you see a sign for Forest Road 66. Take a left onto FR 66 and follow it for over 12.5 miles (the last couple miles of this road is gravel) until you come to two lakes. Disappearing Lake is on the left, South Prairie Lake is on the right.
Disappearing Lake is a seasonal lake located in South Prairie in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and it’s only around for about 4 weeks out of the year. Each spring (usually early-mid May) it fills with snow melt and gets to about 8-10 feet deep. Usually by the second weekend of June it has drained out to where you can’t kayak or canoe anymore. By July it’s a beautiful grassy meadow that you can hike around. There isn’t much information on Disappearing Lake, Oregon Field Guide on OPB had an episode about it back in 2013. Click on the link for the 7 minute video that gives you a bit more information about this interesting lake.
There are two good areas right off the road that are easy spots to put your kayak in the lake. We chose the spot near the Northeast corner of the lake. When you first get in the lake it seems just like any other lake. When you head off towards the trees that are just sprouting up in the middle of the lake you enter this almost bayou type area. The trees are pretty big and are all over the lake, it’s kind of crazy to see but also really neat. In the shallow areas you can see the grass starting to come in. The lake is over the top of the Big Lava Flow area in the Gifford Pinchot NF, so you can see the lava rock in the water and all along the edges of the lake.
There are lots of narrow areas that you can squeeze your kayak into and check out. It’s one of the most peaceful and unique lakes we’ve ever been to and quickly became our favorite kayak trip. Make sure to check out the pollen lines on the trees, the lake had already dropped a good foot and it was still May! We drifted around the calm waters for about two hours and were able to check out every part of the lake. We got to the lake pretty early and were the only ones out there, by the time we got back to the car there were probably about 5 or 6 other people with more driving in.
Across from Disappearing Lake is South Prairie Lake. We didn’t go out in our kayak but we did walk around it a bit. It’s a pretty lake with lily pads all around it. We definitely want to come back and explore it more another time.
We plan to come back in July when Disappearing Lake turns into a meadow. We’ve heard about some rare lily that grows out there in the summer. It’ll be fun to see how much everything has changed as well!
Difficulty: Flat/calm water
Pet Friendly: Yes
Good For: All ages
Parking Fee: None
Seasons: Depends each year because of snow melt but usually late May to Early June.
Overall: We loved this fun lake and can’t wait to come back next year!