Drowned Lake (Little Payette Lake Reservoir)



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Little Payette Lake Reservoir,  approximately 34″ by 46″, oil on canvas-covered panel.

Little Payette Lake is (I now know) a dam-modified piedmont lake just east of the big Payette Lake in Valley County in the mountains of central Idaho near the town of McCall. This painting comes from my trips to Little Payette Lake several times at twilight during summer. Because the outlet of the original small lake was controlled by a dam it has become a reservoir for farmers in Payette County 100 miles downstream.  With the higher water many of the original trees surrounding the lake were drowned and in time the trees not cut down were reduced to needle-less snags that create dramatic silhouettes in the summer twilight. The imagery struck me as formally beautiful with the receding spatial depth and the spiky vertical contrast of the dead trees against the horizontals of the water and the ridgelines, with a play of the warm colors of the fading sunset and the cool colors of the deepening shadows and darkness. When I look at the image now, my ankles itch remembering the millions of mosquitoes that rise off the lake at dusk looking for mammals to bleed.



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Little Payette Lake, detail


I was up in McCall one November and went out to Little Payette Lake to see how it appeared in the daylight hours of early winter. I was surprised to find that the lake had been drawn way down revealing the remnants of thousands of stumps which still contrasted nicely with the light snow covering the dry lake bottom.


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Little Payette in Winter, drained (photograph)