The town of Lakeview has two nicknames: the "Tallest town in Oregon" (elevation 4800') and the "Hang Gliding Capitol of the West."
Geography, Weather and Flying
Situated just north of the California border in the south-central part of Oregon, Lakeview is a ranching, farming and logging center. Geologically the area is part of the basin and range country that stretches east and south throughout Nevada, and the long north/south mountain ranges provide many flying sites for foot-launched pilots. In fact, there are five developed drive-up sites within a 50-mile radius of town and a few other less well known undeveloped sites nearby. Much of the flying is along the 100-mile long Warner Mountain range conveniently located just east of town.
Despite the "lake" in its name, Lakeview is high desert country like most of Oregon on the east side of the Cascades. It gets bitterly cold there in the winter and the launches are covered in snow until sometime in the spring. Most of the flying around Lakeview happens in the summer and fall, primarily June through September. Summer can bring light and variable days with high cloudbase (10,000' to 15,000' msl), but it can also produce outrageously strong mid-day conditions unsuitable for paragliding.
The Lakeview area offers a wide variety of flying opportunities for foot-launched pilots -- easy flights in light conditions in the morning, thermal flying in the afternoon, and ridge soaring in glass-off conditions in the evening. And in addition the cross country potential around Lakeview is enormous. (After all, there's a good reason why both the HG and PG national championships have been held there in years past.)
As if great flying conditions aren't enough, there are plenty of other reasons to love Lakeview. Friendly residents who are supportive of foot-launched flight (I've had locals stop alongside a field where I landed out and offer me a ride back to town before I even finished packing up). Developed launch sites with graded roads, parking lots, outhouses and nicely graveled "launch pads" (many of the sites have official highway signs pointing the way to launch). Inexpensive places to stay and eat (motels, developed and undeveloped campgrounds). A "small town America" atmosphere with a county fair on Labor Day weekend where you can ride the Zipper, eat cotton candy and check out the 4-H projects in the barns.
The site descriptions on this page are intended as brief summaries; for more details see the site guide information at the end of this article. Please note that these sites are unregulated even though they have hang ratings on them (H1 = Beginner, H2 = Novice, H3 = Intermediate, H4 = Advanced).
Black Cap looms over downtown Lakeview, beckoning pilots up to launch just below the summit at approximately 6300' msl (1500' agl). Launches face S through W and soaring is of both the ridge and thermal variety. There's a big flag in downtown Lakeview easily visible from launch that gives convenient up-to-the-minute wind direction information. John Yates was the first paraglider pilot to do a significant cross country flight from Black Cap, with a 19-miler north along the Warners to land near Tague's Butte in the mid 1990's. Rick Higgins set the Oregon state distance record of 83.6 miles from Black Cap in 2000. Rating: H2 with altitude experience.
Sugar Hill is the only developed flying site in the California section of the Warners. It's a popular choice for the XC pilots because the 7200' msl (2400' agl) SW-facing launch heats up earlier than some of the other launches and has a habit of frequently propelling pilots to cloudbase. Just to give you an idea of the XC potential, the hang gliding site record is over 150 miles and there have been a number of 100+ mile flights from Sugar. Many paraglider pilots have flown north along the Warners from Sugar Hill to the vicinity of Lakeview. Rating: H3 with turbulence recommended.
Tague's Butte is a 6500' msl knob that rises in front of Abert Rim, the prominent 22-mile, 2500' agl west-facing rock formation that is visible from most parts of Lake County. Because the rim is such a sharp cliff, the idea is to launch at Tague's Butte and fly over to the rim in soarable conditions. This is an incredibly scenic spot -- the rim looks like something out of a Roadrunner cartoon where you might expect to see Wile E. Coyote hiding on top. Rating: H4 with turbulence recommended.
Doherty Slide is another west-facing rim-like formation an hours drive east of Lakeview in a smaller range that parallels the Warner Mountains. Launch is in front of the rim at about 6000' msl (1000' agl). Historical note: a hang gliding distance world record was set at Doherty Slide in 1974 with a 13.5 mile flight north along the rim. Rating: H3 with turbulence and assisted windy cliff launch recommended, H2 early or late.
Hadley Butte is the northernmost of the developed sites, facing north towards the Summer Lake basin. The typical XC flight is east along the hills to the town of Paisley and then south from there. Rating: H2 for early flights, H3 with turbulence for afternoon.
For more information contact the Lake County Chamber of Commerce office in Lakeview at 541-947-6040 or http://www.lakecountychamber.org/
Submitted by: Steve Roti
Last Revision Date: 6/23/2010