Jameson and I pulled out of Spokane about 11am, I didn’t want to get too early a start to allow the temps a chance to come up a bit. With favorable winds in the forecast I decided we should get the kayaks out for the first time this year and paddle the channeled scablands, an area that tends to be a bit drier and warmer than lakes closer to Idaho.
Nestled in a unique basalt canyon just outside of Odessa is elusive Pacific Lake, surrounded by 12,000 acres of canyons, grasslands, craters, and cliffs set aside for us to enjoy. After 15 years of being bone dry from controversial deep well irrigation that had lowered the water table, high precipitation and a deep snowpack in 2017 brought life back to an otherwise lackluster location.
We found the well signed Pacific Lake Recreation Area road just north of Lakeview Ranch. We drove the dirt road to the boat launch and could make out what looked like a boat on the water. We passed a vehicle coming out of the park, a little disappointed, I braced myself for the hoards of people we would find at the road end. We approached the boat launch to find the lake almost overflowing with water, and the boat we saw on the way in was actually a rocky outcrop stranded offshore, and that car we passed was the only one we would see, we had this place all to ourselves. With a grin on my face we unloaded the kayaks and provisions, loaded up the rod holders and hit the water.
The temps were still on the chilly side with overcast skies, so we opted to don the splash gear. We paddled east along the north side of lake and quickly discovered a wall of beautiful basalt pillars covered in bright orange and lime green lichen reaching toward the sky. We tossed spinners at the base of the rocks without any luck. Jameson’s pole is pretty cheap, so he struggled to get the lure very far from his kayak. After a few casts we put the rods away and just paddled, at the end of the basalt wall we turned left and got our first view up the lake. We could make out an island and opted to paddle up the left channel, the island is rather large and would make a good place to camp along its western flank. Beyond the island the lake opened up a bit, the views up the lake were stunning, basalt cliffs rose from both sides of the lake with those on the south side of the lake reaching a couple hundred feet toward the clouds, birds of prey soared above while smaller birds sang and danced across the lake surface. As we paddled along the calm lake surface we jumped Canadian geese as they made a cacophony of noise getting off the water and honking as they flew away. Some of the basalt rock formations were quite impressive, it’s amazing what heat and pressure can do to a landscape. I decided to try and troll my lure behind us as we paddled along but gave up because Jameson was having some trouble keeping up, I don’t think i had enough line out anyway as the lake was quite deep along the basalt cliffs.
After a couple miles of paddling we approached the end of the lake as we could make out the grassy bottom below us. Again we tried to fish, and on the first cast, fish on! We were in a good spot, after landing the fish, a 14 inch fatty rainbow, we paddled back up a bit to compensate for the wind. This time we casted to the opposite side of the lake, and on the second cast, boom, fish on! Next it was Jameson’s turn, it was obvious his crappy little pole wasn’t gonna get the job done so I gave him mine, it took him a minute but he picked up using a reel with a bail rather quickly and before long he caught his first fish! He was a little timid picking up the fish and putting him back so I helped him with that. Jameson was having a blast, he was hooked, literally, and quickly caught his second rainbow trout. Reluctantly he gave me my pole back, and boom, I caught another one. At this point the winds were picking up so we decided to hit the road. We both had decided to take a break from the paddle before heading out and hit a grassy flat to stretch our legs.
I grabbed the pole to test my luck from shore and sure enough caught one right off the bat, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Jameson took the pole next and landed two more fish, we were killing it, you just don’t get into fishing like this and in knew it. I decided we were gonna stay as long as Jameson wanted to, he was having the time of his life, it was so much fun. After about an hour at the far end of the lake it was time to go, the winds were sustained, but didn’t seem to be getting worse. Winds are the deadliest thing in this part of eastern Washington for a small craft on open water. The lakes here are surrounded with basalt cliffs, giving little relief to a capsized boat which has killed a lot of people in this neck of the woods, we had to play it safe. We paddled up the lake, into the wind, which provided some extra effort. The scenery was good as cliffs on the south side of the lake are much more dramatic than those on the north side.
We rounded a bend in the landscape and discovered a sweet slice of private property with a dock, swingset, and swim beach. The place looked abandoned as if it hadn’t been used in years, it was obvious a decade of drought and a dry lake bottom must have taken its toll. Jameson was getting tired and our hands were cold, but he refused to let me help tow him out, he is much stronger on the paddle this year than last year. Before long we could make out the island we had passed on the way in, we went left around the south side of the island this time for some different scenery.
We were on the home stretch, and it was a long one, we were both ready to be done and were now paddling with numb fingers, we had remembered the splash gear, but forgot the gloves. Finally we reached the boat launch, relieved. Once on land Jameson tried his luck fishing from a dock near the launch while I retrieved the truck and loaded the boats and gear. Turns out the fishing is much better at the far end of the lake. We had a good day, Pacific Lake surely did not disappoint. The drive home was uneventful except for memories of a good day on the lake and stories of all the fish landed and released. We paddled 4 miles total. Directions for the paddle were found in “Day Hiking Eastern Washington” by Rich Landers and “Best Desert Hikes Washington” by Alan Bauer. For more photos click the link. Pacific Lake Kayak Paddle