Ancient Lakes is the name given to a hiking area located just west of Quincy, Washington and just off of Highway 28. This area was carved by the ancient Missoula floods. The coulee left behind was scarred with small depressions and these fill up with water to form several “ancient” lakes.
I showed up at Ancient Lakes for the first time recently and was looking forward to a classic Eastern Washington hiking experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love hiking in the Cascades and on the Olympic Peninsula, surrounded by high mountain peaks and lush green forests, but sometimes a change can be nice too. A hike like the one to Ancient Lakes is relatively easy over flat ground and allows you to see up close and personal a land of sagebrush and rock walls.
After hiking in on an old 4×4 road that now only allows horseback riding and hiking, we took a left and headed east into a canyon. After a quarter mile or so we reached the top of a small rise and were treated to one of the best views ever. As you look further into the closed off canyon you can see that you are almost completely surrounded by rock walls. We counted two waterfalls spilling over the edge and five small lakes. We hiked between the lakes to a wide open spot that was obviously a favorite to some overnight campers, then skirted one canyon wall south before following the trail up to a small saddle that provided us with a view into the next canyon and Dusty Lake.
The hike out was pain free too and we left with some nice photos and a great experience of being out on the trail in Eastern Washington. I appreciated the opportunity of getting a glimpse of what this land must have looked like to the first pioneers that went through it.
My hike through Ancient Lakes was a bit like stepping back in time. It was yet another reminder of how lucky I am to live in the Pacific Northwest.
When you think about it, the construction of a dam across a major river is pretty amazing. To stop the flow of water, or at least alter it significantly, so large crews can build a concrete structure on dry riverbed is something incredibly impressive. As roadtrippers, we pass by dams all the time. Some of them are small and some quite large. If you’re driving along the Columbia River, you are guaranteed to see one.
Just north of Wenatchee and spanning the Columbia River is Rocky Reach Dam. Construction began on this dam in 1956 and all these years later it stands as one of the more important pieces of the hydroelectric production grid in Eastern Washington. Rocky Reach Dam has 11 turbines and sits 473 river miles above where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. When built, it was a very important project for the region. It still is too.
You can access Rocky Reach Dam on the west side of the river from Highway 97A. There are climbing toys for kids as well as a picnic area and large playground available for anyone just after driving through the main gate. The visitor center is where all the really good stuff is and that is further north.
Once inside the visitor center you will see an information booth, a seating area, and a snack bar. Take the stairs down a level and you will find yourself able to view some exhibits as well as enter a small theater where some documentaries are usually playing detailing the construction of the dam, as well as how it works. When you go down one more flight of stairs (there is also an elevator), you will come to the fish viewing windows and during high volume times of the year this can be a fun place for kids and adults alike.
Rocky Reach Dam is also home to the Museum of the Columbia. Walk out onto the dam itself and gain entrance to this fascinating series of exhibits that detail the early days of the river and the inhabitants that lived along it. There are also some very cool displays of equipment used during the time of the dam’s construction. Continue on past the museum and come to a viewing window overlooking the generators that produce the electricity. At the end of that hallway is the large viewing window that gives you a close up look at the spillways. If you’re lucky, they’ll be open and white water will be raging through it on its way downstream.
I love stopping at dams and seeing the history on display as well as marveling at these manmade contraptions that briefly harnessed mother nature and got it working for them. Rocky Reach Dam is a great place to visit on your way north or south through the North Central Washington region.