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Kayaking Central Washington State

Many people assume that the entire state of Washington is “evergreen” but in reality the central portion – between about Ellensburg to the west and Cheney to the east – is a true desert with sagebrush, some cactus, coyotes and lots of sunshine. This dryland band extends from north of the Canadian border down through Oregon. In Washington the Columbia River cuts through this central desert region and provides good paddling adventures all by itself. But there are several lakes in this region that make for good paddling as well as a different type of paddling for those used to Puget Sound.

On rainy days in Seattle you can often drive just two hours eastward on I-90 to find sunshine and 75F temperatures. Even when the mercury climbs past 80F the weather feels comfortable because of the low humidity. And water temperatures over 75F are common so you can practice your self-rescue techniques.

The City of Moses Lake offers several free launch sites including Blue Heron Park (north of the I-90 freeway at exit 174) operated by the City of Moses Lake. If you follow the “off road vehicle” signs south from exit 174 you’ll cross the two canals linking Moses Lake with the Potholes Reservoir which offers miles of paddling all by itself along with numerous islands for free camping. There areĀ  several arms (which are called “horns” on Moses Lake) which, when combined together, provide about 40 linear miles of paddling. And it’s just a short portage to the Potholes Reservoir right next door for even more paddling.

Drive to Soap Lake, Washington just 25 miles NW of Moses Lake and (state route 28 from I-90 just west of George, WA or from Moses Lake via state route 17) then proceed due north on Highway 17 through basalt canyons along several fresh water lakes called the “Sun Lakes”. At the northern end of this chain of lakes lies Sun Lakes State Park. Continue up to the plateau and visit Dry Falls State Park for an overview of the area.

Continue driving on state route 17 and then east on US 2 into Coulee City and you’ll find a marvelous city park at the southern end of Banks Lake complete with a marina, protected swimming beach and campground. Drive east out of Coulee City to the junction of state route 155 and continue north towards Grand Coulee and you’ll drive along the eastern shore of Banks Lake eventually coming to Steamboat Rock State Park. Just north of the state park entrance is a launch area/rest stop where you can easily launch your kayaks and paddle the rock gardens of Eagle Pass. We spent an afternoon playing tag with a family of 5 vultures in this area. Truly a special paddle. Be alert for fast moving fishing boats.

Good camping can often be found – for free – all over the area including right next to the water at the Moses Lake/Potholes canals and along highway 17 next to the Sun Lakes (watch for gusty winds in the canyons next to the Sun Lakes). The City of Moses Lake operates a campground along the lake near Cascade Park and the City of Grand Coulee has a campground on the shores of Banks Lake. In addition there is the campground at Steamboat Rock State Park.

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