Fish Lake Historic Site Collage

Fish Lake Historic Site Collage

The Friends of Fish Lake Fall 2023 Membership Newsletter

To view 4 videos of Fish Lake Remount Depot click here

New Book Traces History of Fish Lake Site in the High Cascades


Nestled in the forests above the headwaters of Oregon's majestic McKenzie River, the Fish Lake historic site has countless stories to tell of the people who occupied the site for different purposes for hundreds of years.


A new book, Fish Lake in the High Cascades: A Historic Legacy, has just been published to document this unique site. Over 200 pages, the book features twelve chapters on the site’s history, filled with stories told by people who have worked there, 175 color and historic photographs, and twenty-two maps. Primary authors are David Turner and Rolf Anderson. "This book is dedicated to the many caretakers of the Fish Lake Historic Site dating back to 1906," said Rolf Anderson, one of the book's authors. "Without their love, hard work and dedication, this remarkable place would not have persisted for today's public enjoyment."


Depending on the time of year, the view of the lake from its shore ranges from snow covered ice during the middle of winter, to clear blue water during the spring, and ultimately to a pasture of verdant green sedges and grasses during the summer. Every year the water of Fish Lake drains through its porous lava dust and rock bottom, into Fish Lake Creek, moving into Clear Lake, and eventually into the McKenzie River.


Since its formation about 4,000 years ago after a volcanic eruption of Sand Mountain dammed Hackleman Creek, tribal people, particularly the Kalapuyan and Molallan, walked trails in the Fish Lake area as they harvested berries and supplies and hunted for food. The Native American trails, eventually used by settlers looking for a route across the central Cascade mountains, established a trail becoming the basis of the historic Santiam Wagon Road (SWR), a toll road for travelers and animal herders, active between 1867 and 1907. The most popular stop along the SWR was Fish Lake, where travelers could enjoy a hotel, store, saloon, barns, corrals, cabins, and tent sites.


During most of the 20th century, and until the early 2000's the U.S. Forest Service occupied the site seasonally as a Guard Station and Remount Station. Their main activities were fire detection and suppression, managing cattle and sheep grazing allotments, and supplying lookout towers and trail crews. The site remains an active Guard Station.


In 1909, the first Forest Service pack animals were kept in the historic corrals from the earlier Santiam Wagon Road period. Usually, a small team of six to twelve animals, but sometimes up to sixty, spent the extended summer at the Fish Lake Remount Depot to carry people and materials to the lookouts and to the trail maintenance crews in deep in the forests.

Today, the Fish Lake site is accessible to the public through a day use parking area on Highway 126, about two miles north of Clear Lake. Visitors walk through a version of a toll gate on the actual historic Santiam Wagon Road, towards the historic structures, built in three different periods: the 1920s Forest Service buildings, the 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) buildings, a bunkhouse from the 1960s and an outdoor gathering pavilion built in 2018.


The Friends of Fish Lake, a non-profit organization established in 2010, works with the McKenzie River Ranger District employees to protect and restore the facilities on the site, develop public programming to inform visitors about the site’s history, and hosts activities to continue use of the site. The Kinsman and Roundhouse Foundations and the Pacific Northwest Forest Service Association contributed to the book production costs.


The new book will be available at local bookstores in Oregon at a cost of $30, or directly from Rolf Anderson. Cost of the book is $30 with a $5 shipping and handling fee if mailed. For more information or to order books, contact Rolf Anderson,