We don’t get many scuba divers or snorkelers at Wallowa Lake–I’m guessing it’s because the water is so cold (even in summer) and the lake is at elevation (4400 feet above sea level). However, a local (LaGrande, OR) diver with the moniker “Bluesman” posted a couple of years ago about diving at Wallowa Lake on the Northwest Dive Club website.
I especially like his comment about Wally. Doesn’t every lake have its own sea monster? Rumor has it that the locals used to sacrifice a virgin to Wally every year–maybe to improve the fishing? Don’t know–it predates our arrival in Eastern Oregon.
If you do plan a dive at Wallowa Lake you’ll need to bring along as many cylinders as you’ll need in addition to you hood and booties. Checking with the Wallowa Lake Marina reveals that there aren’t any locations in Wallowa County to get tanks refilled. In fact, they think the closest dive shop is in the Tri-Cities area of Washington (about 3 hours away by car).
But you won’t need to worry about rinsing out your gear–Wallowa Lake is snowfed and the water is very pure–just a little on the cold side.
Skill Level: All Divers.
Current Sensitive: No.
Location/Address: Northeast Oregon. End of the road on Oregon Hwy. 82.
Directions: Out of La Grande, OR head east on Oregon Hwy. 82. Pass through Enterprise and Joseph to the north end of the lake.
Free Parking: yes
Staging Area: good, late Spring through early Fall parking lots may be busy with lots of tourists.
Surface Swim: Not much on either end of the lake. Depending on time of year as depth varies, Divers can be in 10 ft. of water on the way to 20-30 ft. in 50-75 yards from shore.
Nearby Facilities: At the Joseph end or north end a nice paved parking lot, boat launch and dock. Bathrooms, some grass and picnic tables. At the south end there is a marina, state park and adjacent campground, grass picnic tables, rest rooms and paved parking. Entry is relatively easy from shore or possibly the boat ramp. Lots of tourist things to do with go carts, horses, hikes and the Mt. Howard tram. Booking at the campsite must be done well in advance with Oregon State Parks. Advance bookings with the Wallowa Lake Lodge or other cabins/motels are also important. (Editor’s aside: A stay at the Bronze Antler Bed & Breakfast in Joseph Oregon wouldn’t be a bad idea either!)
Special Considerations: Motor boats, paddle boats. Water Skiing in the larger part of the lake.
Maximum Depth: The Lake at its deepest is well past any diver’s limits, around 400 feet. Most of the edges are 10 to 60 feet. Of course, more depth is possible.
Dive Site Description: Snow fed water source out of the High Wallowa Mountains. Visibility is good year round; probably in the 15- 20 ft range mostly. I would suppose at times more clarity. Water temps range downward from 55 degrees. Much colder in the spring/early summer than Fall. Rock and mud bottoms. Submerged logs, branches. Possibly some old car bodies in places, supposedly railroad logging equipment was dumped in the lake. Not a lot of life but one can see Trout, Crayfish, Others. Wally the lake monster.