Kayaking First night Potholes State Park -- Paddle Heaven

Kayaking First night Potholes State Park

First night Potholes State Park and paddling.

OK, the evening of the first night of camping at Potholes State Park on the shore of what else, the Potholes Reservoir, South of Moses Lake Washington State and Interstate 90 about 22 miles.

This kayaking adventure(s) took place in the month of August 2009. Supposedly the weather in the Moses Lake area is usually sunny. Guess what. The weather was more like the Seattle area. Yup, rained the first night and the rest of the trip was partly cloudy with the threat of electrical storms.


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From Othello Washington go north 20 miles up highway 17 and then west on O’Sullivan Road, cross through the scab lands for the beauty and 6 miles shorter then the other route.


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Sorry I did not get any pictures of the park. It is a lovely GREEN grass and towering lombardy poplar wind breaks with $14 primitive camping and $28 on the grass with electric. Primitive means no electricity or water at site and pit toilets. The washrooms with the running water are close by on foot or bicycle. The primitives are often times bordered with the poplars and other trees providing shade in the heat of the day. The sites on the outside, northern edges don’t have much shade. No water access from camp to the water. To reach the water use the boat launch road right next to the campground. The sites have dirt sand and lots of leaves, picnic tables and a great staff to help out when I needed help with my bike locked to the table. They also came by to do a little something about the yellow jacket nests.

After choosing a site buried in Russian Olive Trees, I unpacked the gear and hauled the kayak on my back to the launch site for a late afternoon early evening paddle in the lake.

NOTE: Reserve a camp site in advance especially on the weekends in the peak season. The being summer when people on the coast flock to the area for some sunshine and fishing. The lake is crammed with carp, and many other LARGE fish. Anyway, week days are not too bad to find a camping spot at Potholes. The weather the week of 9-16 August of 2009 was cloudy and cooler then usual. The weather might have thinned the crowds out a bit.

The lake is low in August being it is a reservoir and water is pumped out to feed the agriculture in the area. Being low there is mud and rocks to avoid. I decided on the center ramp and just off to the north edge. Different times of year the conditions of and choices of where to launch always change.

There is parking up the road from the launch site. There is no fee I know of for kayakers and others that are paid campers. Otherwise there is a $7 launch fee for getting in and out and parking for the day. Overnight parking is something like $10. Why overnight??? Good question. There are tons of islands in the reservoir suitable for paddle in or other watercraft to camp for a night or longer. So paddlers that are prepared to spend the night on the water someplace can park in the state park and probably the other many water launch sites on the lake along O’Sullivan Dam Road on the southern edge of the lake.

Oh, by the way, there is a gas station with expensive gas and all sorts of stuff that campers can use like ice and camping gear, supplies, junk food and some hot stuff like pizza etc. The store also sells Potholes and the Columbia Wildlife Refuge maps. The store is EASY to find. It is just outside the park entrance on O’Sullivan Road and the only business to speak of on the highway.

Back to the first lake paddle test drive.

After putting in the lake it was a very short journey north to the Frenchman Wasteway that feeds the lake. The water has to come from some place.

The route is upstream. I figure the entire length according to the Google map is about 1 mile round trip. The stream flow is pretty good the further inland. In fact are you ready for this, there are rapids you can hear roar from the campground. Yup, rapids in the middle of what some people call a flat like desert. Actually the area is high steppe with abundant life.

There are tons of people fishing all over the place. Watch for lines being cast from the shore and boats. The reason they are there is because as you will discover the fish will freak you out when they jump and splash one by one or in large groups around your human powered craft. SURPRISE! I have seen some fish but these babies were unreal. They shoot across the extra shallow bottom mud and kick up underwater sand storms. Torpedoes that leap and smash down on the water will catch you thinking it might be a seal???

Oh, did I say shallow? The water level is higher in the spring offering a little more flexibility when it comes to paddling. The depth is not much to speak of in the lake to begin with. By August at least in 2009 the pickings were pretty thin from my point of view. Check out another upcoming post about the outer/northern islands that will appear soon. In short, low water means fewer islands and more peninsulas.

The evening was taking a toll on my lazy body and mind. The wind was blowing out of the northwest. I was tired and caught a free ride back to the launch in between what looked like possible lightening storms on their way from over the Cascade Mountains in the distance.

Great place but there are many things to consider like heat, wind, electrical storms, boats and other common sense things to be aware of. Near the launch site there is a sign about flashing lights that have been installed to warm of high winds. The recommendation was to find shelter and stay put until the winds die down. It is fairly flat around the lake so the gusts can really rage on a little kayak or canoe with only a couple of arms to keep the puppy upright and in good shape.

Sand and tumble weeds, Olive in the background.

Sand and tumble weeds, Olive in the background.

The night brought rain in the “desert”. :) Rained most of the night. So, what does that say? Be prepared.

Go for it. If you like flatwater lake paddling fish, sky and some quiet between the jet skis, jets and other fossil fuel noise, this can be a fun little starter paddle. This campground is a good home base of more really knock your socks off BEAUTY in and around the area. Hang on. It is a gorgeous place to see, hear and smell. Sensory overload.