Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Lake Beside the Sea: Devil's Lake

Many visitors to Lincoln City don't even know this three-mile-long lake exists; they are here for the ocean, or the shopping. Other visitors come just for the lake. Either way, it is a perfect escape from the blowing sand and heavy surf often found on Oregon's beaches. Next time you're in Lincoln City, check out this beautiful coastal lake and the D River (arguably the world's shortest) that connects it to the ocean.

The lake's proximity to Lincoln City provides access points at six different parks. Which park you choose depends on several factors, as the lake offers a variety of recreational opportunities. We will begin at the southwest corner and follow the lakeshore in a clockwise direction.

The first park, Hostetler Park, is easy to miss. NE 1st Street looks like a hotel parking lot, so many people drive right by. Look across Highway 101 from the D River Wayside, on the north end of the bridge. Turn east on NE 1st and you will see a small, primitive park next to the river. This spot is popular with dog owners who are looking for a safer or less-salty place to let their dogs play in the water. It also has off-the-beaten-path picnicking. Keep following the road as it narrows and passes over a slender bridge to another parking area. Here you will find a small, primitive put-in for hand launching paddle craft. This is the place to launch when the winds are from the south; you can paddle the southern end of the lake in relative peace. There is a tiny canal passing beside lakefront homes, but much of this part of the lake is bordered by a wetland and frequented by water-loving birds. If you don't have a boat, look for a wooden walkway heading off into the wetland. This path is accessible for most and offers a quiet birdwatching spot on its way to the State Park.

Heading north, a right turn just past the Cultural Center leads to Devil's Lake State Campground. In the summertime, expect this campground to be fully booked. We like to go in the winter, and we have never had trouble finding a spot. One word of warning, though, if you plan to reserve online: much of this campground seems to be about 4" below the water table during the rainy season. It might be a better idea to scope out the many dryer sites in person, and be sure to bring rubber boots for the kids. None of the sites have lake views. There is an accessible paved path from the camping area to the docks, where you can try your luck at fishing or tie up a boat (launched elsewhere, as there is no ramp here). The beach is a short walk from this campground.

Taken near the Regatta Grounds dock.
The next two parks are on West Devil's Lake Road. Heading north in downtown Lincoln City, turn right on NE 14th Street and follow along toward the hospital. Before you get to the hospital, you will see Regatta Grounds Park dropping off steeply to your right. If you brought kids, this is your park. There is a fishing dock, a swimming area, real restrooms, an excellent boat launch, and, best of all, a big play area. It is somewhat sheltered from northerly winds and has numerous picnic tables. This is also a good place to launch paddle and sail craft, although this central part of the lake is very popular with motorized boats. Be prepared to encounter boat wakes and the occasional negligent speedster.

Continuing on West Devil's Lake, pass the hospital and go through a residential area, watching on your right for Holmes Road Park (if the road curves and heads downhill, you missed it). This tiny park is all business, offering docks and a good boat ramp for fisherman headed for the deepest part of the lake. There are restrooms and a small parking lot with a bird's-eye view over the water. This park is a good place to launch paddle craft when the winds are out of the north; the northern arms of the lake are fun to explore, and the majority of the motorboats favor the middle of the lake.
Continue on West Devil's Lake Road and meet Highway 101 at the north end of town. Following 101 away from Lincoln City, watch for a right turn onto East Devil's Lake Road. This will lead to our last two parks.

A right turn onto NE Loop Drive, just past the KOA, will bring you to a tiny jewel of a park. Just before reaching Sand Point Park, you will see a simple boat ramp on the lakeshore. Then you will find the park. It is tiny, there is not a lot of parking, and the restrooms always seem to be locked when I need them the most. There are only a couple of picnic tables; it all looks rather unremarkable. But not only is one of the tables easily wheelchair accessible, it even has a small barbecue. Now look a little further, and you will find a wooden ramp to a small, accessible beach. Everyone can visit this slender strip of lakeside sand, sheltered from the prevailing northerlies and facing any sunshine that might be available. The ramp is great for launching canoes, kayaks, or small sailboats to explore the northern lake arms, and the little beach makes a good swimming spot on the rare warm days.

Drive along the east side of the lake to our last stop, East Devil's Lake State Park. This tree-shaded park has a nice boat ramp and dock, as well as plenty of parking for boat trailers. Numerous picnic tables make this a popular spot for families to hang out and barbecue, although it can be a bit chilly here when winds are howling out of the north. Take a short drive past the park and you will find the Factory Outlet Mall, which offers an alternative to outdoor activities if the weather turns ugly. Be aware that there is often water over this last stretch of East Devil's Lake Road; drive with care.

Stocked with rainbow trout every spring, Devil's Lake has become a popular spot to bring kids, fishing poles, and the family boat. As the water warms during the summer, the lake sometimes experiences algae blooms and caution might be needed while around the water; this page details the latest water quality for the lake. The water is monitored by the Devil's Lake Water Improvement District, which maintains an excellent website with everything you could want to know about the lake.

Next time you're in Lincoln City, plan to spend some time at Devil's Lake. Savor the salt air, the wind-rippled water, and the lovely lakeside homes. Look for ducks, coots, and geese. Listen for redwing blackbirds and tree frogs. Bring a picnic, snap some photos, and maybe even bring home a fish or two.



  1. Friends Of Devils Lake FaceBookFebruary 29, 2016 at 11:43 AM

    Just remember the lake can get you and your pets very ill from the polluted water. E.Coli and toxic green algae blooms are the biggest threats, caused from the dysfunctional septic systems that surround the lake.

    1. 29, 2016 at 1:27 PM

  2. I understand the concerns with any body of water that is surrounded by homes. We enjoy Devils Lake on a regular basis and have for decades, and we have never suffered any harm from the water. We included the warning and the link to the water quality site so that readers can check for themselves before using the lake, which is, indeed, to be encouraged. Thank you for your comment, we also want to see the lake thrive.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Can a boat reach the ocean from Devils lake?