Friday, November 6, 2015

Oregonians Abroad: Lacamas and Round Lakes

Yes, it is true; your humble authors have strayed over the state line on several occasions. This time, we wandered into the land known as Washington State in search of a pair of family-friendly lakes near the town of Camas.

These lakes are only about 30 miles from Portland, making them ideal for a quick trip if you are in the Portland/Vancouver area. On the other hand, there is enough to do here to make it worth packing up boats, fishing poles, kids, bikes, and picnics to spend most of the day. That is, if you can locate it; like so many destinations, it's easy to find if you know where it is.

Take the I-5 or I-205 bridge over the Columbia, then turn east toward the little town of Camas on SR 14. Take exit #12 (the first Camas exit) onto NE 6th Avenue. Turn left on Dallas Road, then right on NE 15th, then left on NE Everett. Follow Everett until you come to a small bridge. Lacamas Lake is on your left and Round Lake is hidden away on your right; the bridge spans the channel that connects them.

A left turn just before the bridge leads to a grassy park on the shore of Lacamas Lake. Here you will find a boat ramp, picnic facilities, a children's play area, restrooms, and the Lacamas Heritage Trail along the south side of the lake. This trail is partly accessible, beginning as a paved path and turning to wide, smooth gravel. Eventually, it becomes harder to negotiate, but it gives a good taste of the lovely, forested lakeshore. Past the lake on Leadbetter road there are several pullouts where small boats can be hand launched if water levels are high enough. There is also another boat ramp, but this one requires a Discover Pass; there is currently no fee at the first park.

Lacamas Lake allows motorized boats and is reputedly popular with water skiers. These activities are best enjoyed in the deeper middle section of the lake; the shallower ends can be explored in non-motorized craft. Visiting on an autumn weekday, we saw no motorized boats of any kind. Like many of the region's lakes, Lacamas and Round Lakes are currently seeing very low water levels (in fact, the boat ramp was nearly high and dry). While this makes for smaller, less picturesque lakes, it also discourages water skiers and jet skis and encourages quieter craft. On our visit we saw canoeists and kayakers, as well as numerous bank fishermen. Lacamas is stocked with rainbow and brown trout, which should become more active as the water cools this fall. There are also warmwater species such as yellow perch and bass, as well as carp and channel cats.

Lacamas Lake empties into smaller Round Lake through a short channel. If the water level is right, it is possible to paddle from Lacamas Lake directly into smaller, quieter, more sheltered Round Lake. On our visit, the channel narrowed too much as it passed under the bridge, but it was a simple, very short portage from one lake to the other. Round Lake does not allow motorized craft, and presumably it contains the same species of fish found in larger Lacamas Lake. A small parking area gives access to a peaceful park under towering trees, complete with picnic facilities, a sheltered outdoor kitchen, a play area, and lake access. Hand-launch a boat near the bridge (no facilities, so be cautious) or fish from the bank. Here you will also find the Lacamas Creek Trail, a network of paths that visit waterfalls, a dam, and "The Potholes," a popular swimming spot on hot summer days. We ran out of time on our recent visit and were unable to fully explore this trail system; we hope to visit again in the spring to see the camas lilies in bloom.

As fall settles in and the days grow shorter, it gets harder to find time to spend outdoors. This 312-acre park, lying so close to the metropolitan area, offers a perfect opportunity for a one-day "nature fix."

1 comment:

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