Magone Lake is an oasis on a hot summer day and one of Grant County’s favorite swimming and fishing spots.
It also features a 1-mile hiking trail, circling the lake, which is easy enough for everyone in the family.
Located about 26 miles north of John Day in the Malheur National Forest, Magone Lake (pronounced “muh-goon”) covers about 50 acres and is surrounded by Ponderosa pine, fir and other native trees.
Visitors enjoy the water with inner tubes, pontoons, kayaks, canoes and boats. The lake has a boat ramp that was rebuilt five years ago.
The sandy beach in the day use area is great for building sandcastles.
Swimmers can stay near the shore and the gradually sloping shallow water, or venture out to the tree stump in the middle of the lake, which makes a good diving spot.
Picnic areas near the beach are a good place for barbecuing hot dogs and hamburgers — or making s’mores.
The facilities include three tent-only sites, 20 tent/trailer sites and a large picnic area with group picnicking. All the facilities, including a changing room and vault toilets, are handicap-accessible. It also has a reservation-only covered picnic shelter for large gatherings.
Geologists believe the lake was created by a land slide in the early 1800s.
It is said the first fish placed in Magone Lake arrived in the 1880s when Major Joseph Magone, a former Civil War officer, carried buckets of brook trout from the John Day Valley to the lake.
Known for traveling most everywhere by foot, he hiked up to the lake with a wooden yoke across his shoulders, with a bucketful of fish at each end.
Today, the lake is stocked by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife with 8- to 15-inch eastern brook and rainbow trout.
From John Day, follow Highway 26 about 13 miles to County Road 18/Keeney Forks Road. Travel about 12 miles on County Road 18, then turn left onto Forest Service Road 3620 (there will be a sign pointing left to Magone Lake). Travel 2 miles on Forest Road 3620 to the junction with Forest Road 3618. Follow 3618 for approximately 1 mile to the day-use area.