Oswego Lake is a 405-acre lake around which the City of Lake Oswego has grown.
The natural lake is fed by the Tualatin River at the West end and spills over a dam, down into Oswego Creek and into the Willamette River at the East end. There is a natural lake that was originally about 150 feet deep with steep cliffs on the South side. Over time, the lake was made larger by damming its waters and by excavating canals. There are several canals with homes that have access to the main lake as well as two bays: West Bay at the West end and Lakewood Bay at the East end.
The lake is privately owned and managed by the Lake Oswego Corporation. It is a navigable lake with a private boat launch at the East end. Being privately owned and managed, use of the lake is strictly controlled. The right to use the lake is deeded through property ownership. Obviously, those who live on the lake have use of it. However, there is a one-time initiation fee of $5,000 to activate lake usage when waterfront property is purchased. In addition, most citizens of Lake Oswego do have use of the lake, and this is accommodated in two ways.
First, many homes that are not on the lake have deeded lake rights through lake easements. Put simply, years ago when there were lots for sale on the lake, the developer of a neighborhood could buy a lot and deed it to an entire neighborhood. These lots are called lake easements. All of them have membership associations who collect dues and maintain the easements. Most easements have boat slips, picnic facilities, canoe storage, and docks.
To use an easement, you must pay dues into the easement association. Upon paying dues, you will usually receive a key that allows you to open the gate at your easement. Use of boat slips at easements usually requires waiting for a slip to become available and can sometimes take several years. Properties with boating rights, but no available boat slips, can put boats in for day use through the Lake Oswego Corporation. In addition, you may be able to rent a boat slip at the small marina maintained by the Lake Oswego Corporation.
The second way to use the lake, even if you don’t have a waterfront home or a lake easement deeded with your house, is to go to the public swim parks. There are two of them, one at each end of the lake. The swim park on the East end of the lake, 250 Ridgeway Rd, is operated by the City Parks and Recreation Department. It is open to all residents of the City of Lake Oswego and is open July and August, noon to 6pm, daily. There are life guards on duty and there is no charge for admission. Info on this park is easily found at the City Website. At the other end of the lake is the Lake Grove Swim Park, 3900 Lakeview Blvd. It is open June thru Labor Day. It is operated by the Lake Oswego School District and is available to all households that are within the school district boundaries for the old Lake Grove School District. This is the most confusing of the two swim parks as the boundaries no longer reflect school attendance area at the West end of the lake. Newer neighborhoods on the West end, such as Westlake, didn’t exist during the time that the Lake Grove School District was active and so many newer neighborhoods do not have access to this swim park. This swim park does not appear to have a website, but you can get information about whether or not your home is located to allow you to use the park by calling 503-635-0355 or 503-534-2000. The first time you go one of the swim parks, bring identification and proof of residence and, if you are eligable, you will be issued a membership card. The swim parks have swim areas that are restricted so that young children are contained and life guards are on duty. Swim lessons, snack shacks, volley ball, and picnicking are just some of the amenities.
Any vessel put into the lake must be registered with the Lake Oswego Corporation annually. This includes motor boats, sail boats, canoes, and even surf boards. The lake is patrolled by The Lake Corporation with hired security who confirm vessel registration, enforce speed limits, and see to the safety and well being of those who use the lake.
About every 5 to 10 years the water level of the lake is dropped by releasing water through the dam into the Willamette River. The lake does not completely empty, but it does drop quite a bit. This allows property owners along the edge of the lake to build and repair sea walls, docks, and boat houses. The draw-down of the lake is always done in the winter and lasts for several months before being refilled in time for warm weather use. The last draw-down of the lake occurred in 2006.