America's Most Beautiful Lake Has a Sunken Forest Beneath Its Crystal-clear Waters 

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"It just comes across as magical."

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Tucked-away in Oregon’s Willamette National Forest is a lake with waters as clear as a swimming pool and fascinating wonders hiding underneath. 

Oregon’s Clear Lake is a spring-fed lake that was formed around 3,000 years ago through lava flows that ran from Sand Mountain, creating a natural dam that slowly filled with water over the years. 

The forests that surrounded the lake were submerged into the water overtime, remaining today in the form of trunks that can extend as far as 120 feet into the water.

Courtesy of Gene Blick

Thanks to volcanic activity that once shook the area, the lake's grounds are also covered with volcanic silt that is so thick, it looks like white sand. 

This, in combination with the shipwrecks of wooden boats — some of which date back to the 1920s — sitting on the white silt, makes it feel as though you're diving through an underwater beach.  

The lake's clarity is the result of snow and ice that melt from the top of the surrounding mountains and filter through 7,000-year-old lava, slowly running through underground springs before it reaches the lake. 

“To me, Clear Lake has a very spiritual effect on people… when you get there it just comes across as magical,” Brian Carroll, Linn County Parks and Recreation director, told Travel + Leisure

“You’ve got it all, the mountains are there, the forest is there, and there’s lava; there’s just so many different abnormalities about the area because you’re surrounded by all this volcanic terrain, ” he said of the scene. 

Courtesy of Gene Blick

Courtesy of Gene Blick

While divers do come here for the fascinating underwater scenery, the waters can get very chilly at an average of around 37 degrees Fahrenheit.

Courtesy of Gene Blick

For most folks who don't take a dip due to cold temperatures, the area also provides rowboats ($45 for the day for a large and $35 a day for a small) and kayaks ($30 a day for regular kayak and $45 a day for a tandem kayak) you can rent. You can launch your own for $5. 

You can also explore the Clear Loop Trail and the Mackenzie River National Recreation Trail, both of which take you through areas of lava flows dotted with volcanic glass and old forests adorned in wildflowers from May through June and covered with vine maples and a sea of colors in October.

If you're planning to drive to the lake, the route from Willamette Valley will weave you through forests as you drive along the path of the Mackenzie River, with plenty of spots along the way that offer hot springs and hiking trails to explore.