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Summer Lake Watershed (USGS #17120005)

The Summer Lake watershed is a very large watershed located in central Lake County that contains Summer Lake, an important geographic and hydrologic feature of the watershed. The lake is the terminus of the watershed's main stream, Silver Creek. The lake itself is approximately 20 miles long and 10 miles wide. Summer Lake, along with Lake Abert to the southeast, is the only remaining remnants of Lake Chewaucan, which covered the area during much of the late Pleistocene Era about 13,000 years ago. As the lake dried out, the exposed bottom sediments were deposited by the wind on the east side of Summer Lake, where they can be seen today.

Summer Lake

Summer Lake (Oregon State Archives)

The Summer Lake watershed is managed and protected by several agencies and organizations including the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge, Environment Oregon, Solv Watershed Programs, the Oregon Conservation Network, the Oregon State University Watershed Extension Program, and the Oregon Watershed Land Trust. The watershed contains the Summer Lake Wildlife Refuge, run by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Several restoration projects are ongoing in the watershed. One such project involves the wildlife refuge, which is located on the north end of Summer Lake. Each spring and fall the refuge hosts hundreds of thousands of shorebirds and waterfowl as they migrate along the Pacific Flyway. In an effort to enhance the wetlands that are so important to these birds, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife teamed up with Ducks Unlimited, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, Oregon Hunters Association, and North American Wetlands Conservation Council to enhance nearly 1,000 acres of seasonally flooded habitat. The project, completed in 2005, involved improving the efficiency of the waters management and irrigation systems in an area called River Ranch. The project has successfully maximized habitat for wetland wildlife.


USGS water resources links for the Summer Lake watershed

The Environmental Protection Agency's Surf Your Watershed for the Summer Lake watershed

Summer Lake Wildlife Area wetland enhancement profile

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's Strategy for Monitoring Oregon's Waters

Authored by Caitlin Bell, Science Writer, Oregon Explorer