Sunday, April 11, 2010

Seep Lakes, Othello, Washington

We are continuing our tour of the desert areas of eastern Washington while waiting for the snow to melt in the mountains.  In the 1880's this area was know as the Columbia Desert.  But the wheat farmers discovered that wherever there was bunchgrass wheat was grow.  Then in the 1930's Grand Coulee Dam was built as a "make work" project and the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project came into being.  Quickly, over two decades the desert became farms.  And the Columbia Desert disappeared from the maps so much so that most people do not recognize the desert of Washington state. 

Here is the google earth link for a satellite view of the area:,-119.18468&spn=0.058619,0.154324&z=13

It is worth exploring this area with google earth.  It is a very interesting landscape.

As you can see in the picture.  There is an awful lot of water for a desert!!  When the Irrigation Project started pumping water through the rock lined canals they leaked.  And areas lower than the canal had lakes appear from the seepage, hence the name seep lakes.  So there you have it.  A desert full of lakes.  The first half created by God, with the floods of 15,000 years ago and the second half by the US Bureau of Reclamation.  An unlikely pair of land managers. 

For more on the floods click on this link:

The end result is an area that would be never be found in nature and does not seem to make ecological sense.  My first view of the Seep Lakes was in 1972 while still a Forestry student at UC Berkeley.  I had no knowledge of the floods, the desert and the irrigation project.  I just kept looking at the landscape wondering "what is going on here?"

The Seep Lakes are worth the visit for camping, fishing, hiking, duck hunting, mountain bike riding, horseback riding, and other outdoor activities.  The desert wildflowers are just starting to bloom.

The Meadowlarks are calling in the sage with their nests well hidden.  But as the weather warms keep an eye out for ticks and the rattlesnakes.  The only time a rattlesnake struck at me was duck hunting in the Seep Lakes in October.  What a marvelous landscape with ducks and rattlesnakes!!

Lots of places to boondock in the area.  You need the $14 parking permit or a fishing license to camp here.  See the post on Quincy lake last week for additional information.

Here are what the campsites look like in the area.

Try these coordinates for campsites:  Susan Lake 46 57 26.43 N 119 11 58.20 W

Windmill Lake 46 55 49.77 N 119 10 47.23 W and Lyle Lake 46 55 35.55 N 119 11 57.25 W

There are other campsites in the area, but these are the ones I like the best. 

The cool weather in Arizona has followed us back to Washington State.  It has been cloudy and cool since we have come back.  Fortunately, Seep Lakes is one of the warmer places with usually clear skies.  It has not been really cloudy, but more of a hazy sunshine.  We are ready for 75 degrees and full-blown sunshine.  It should be here any day now. 

Next week we will cover the Columbia Basin National Wildlife Area and Potholes Reservoir  which are next door to the Seep Lakes area.

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