By Jim Graybill April 2002
Blue and Fairview Lakes are located in the eastern Portland metropolitan area, just south of the Columbia River and a mile west of the Sandy River delta. These lakes are separated from one another by a sandstone ridge that alludes to their diverse histories. Historically, both lakes were subjected to periodic scouring by the spring floods of the Columbia River and Sandy River. Dikes installed by the US Army Corps of Engineers in the 1940’s stopped the occasional cleaning of the lakes. An earthen dam was built by neighbors and Multnomah Drainage District No. 1 in the late 1940’s to raise the level of Fairview Lake and provide a means of storing storm water runoff from Fairview Creek.
Blue Lake and Fairview Lakes are very different even though they are only 200 feet apart. Blue Lake is filled with water that runs off of the Metro County Park on the north shore and 50 home sites on the south shore and groundwater that is pushed by hydraulic pressure of high water from the Columbia River. When the Columbia River is low, water levels in Blue Lake drop several feet. Fairview Creek collects the storm water from Gresham, Wood Village and Fairview, an area of about 6.5 square miles and empties into Fairview Lake, which drains into the eastern portion of the Columbia Slough, much of which is pumped into the Columbia River.
Public access to Blue Lake is through the fully maintained county park during specific hours of the day. Blue Lake is 65 surface acres and has a maximum depth of 20-22 feet. Fairview Lake is 106 acres and has a consistent depth of 4-5 feet in the summer and 0.5 to 1.5 feet in the winter when not storing storm water runoff. A public park was recently built by the City of Fairview with public boat access limited to canoes and kayaks. The residents of Blue Lake enjoy water skiing, fishing, swimming, and beautiful views of the county park and the ridges to the north of the Columbia River. The 184 residents on Fairview Lake enjoy sailing and evenings of aspen glow on Mt Hood from their party barges in the summer time. Ducks and geese have found a comfortable over night home on the lake in the winter.
Blue Lake is about 50% littoral and 50% limnetic. The littoral zone supports several native and non-native aquatic plants. About 20 years ago, Eurasian milfoil took over most of the littoral zone. Physically harvesting the plants with an underwater mower was used as a control, but proved to be ineffective. The lake was lowered approximately 10 feet by pumping the water out thus drying the shoreline and exposing the soil to freezing during the winter. This too was ineffective. The milfoil was finally eradicated with chemical treatments of 2,4D and/or Sonar. Recently, Curly leaf pondweed has become the latest nuisance to boating and swimming, but is responding to treatments of Sonar. With recent District Court rulings, it remains to be seen whether or not the Sonar treatments can continue.
Fairview Lake is shallow, but plant growth is light limited because of suspended silt in the water. Secchi disk readings of 11 – 17 inches are consistent throughout the year. Strong winds, large populations of common carp and yellow bullhead catfish contribute to silt resuspension. Hence the popular local name “Mud Lake”. Much of the riparian area along the lake was created from dredge spoils deposited by the drainage district during expansion of the storm water reservoir. The riparian areas are now mostly covered with reed canary grass. The City of Fairview is making a concerted effort to replace the reed canary grass with native grasses and other native vegetation. The edges of the bank are steep and drop several feet with little area for aquatic plants to grow. Thus, the residents enjoy weed free boating and swimming.
Blue Lake has self-sustaining populations of warm water game fish, i.e. bluegill sunfish, black crappie, and large mouth bass. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife does stock rainbow trout in the spring. Fairview Lake fish populations are predominately common carp and yellow bullhead catfish. Prior to diking the Columbia River, coho salmon migrated a short distance from the Columbia, around the west end of Blue Lake into Fairview Lake and then finally into Fairview Creek to spawn.
Blue Lake has been fully developed for twenty years or so. Fairview Lake on the other hand was only 40% developed five years ago, but is 95% developed now. What changes, if any, will occur in Fairview Lake as a result of the new houses and streets will be interesting to follow.