Dip your toe into the brisk water of Lake Roosevelt, and a refreshing chill will run to your head. Plunge in, and the relief from a nearly 100-degree summer day will wash across you. The lake—or more accurately, the reservoir—is a 130-mile stretch of the Columbia River wedged between the Okanogan Forest and the Selkirk Mountains, just south of the Canadian border and held by Grand Coulee Dam at its southern end. With more than 600 miles of shoreline and thousands of acres of water to boat, swim, and fish, the lake is a recreational treasure.
On summer days, houseboats (rentable in the area) and speedboats zig-zag the waters and park at dozens of lakeshore campsites. In the fall jet-skiers give way to anglers on the hunt for walleye. The hardiest fishers stay for winter trout, which average 20 to 30 inches in length.
In spring hundreds of hidden beaches, inlets and coves along the shoreline are left exposed by receded water: perfect for combing for tribal artifacts. It’s forbidden to remove or displace any of these cultural riches, but the arrowheads and ceramics tell the story of the tribes that occupied the land before the dam. Easily accessible by water or by land, the historic Fort Spokane Visitors Center and St. Paul’s Mission are popular spots to learn about history and local Native tribes.
No matter the season, the wide-open landscape around the lake proves optimal for stargazing. Trace the Big Dipper, scour the sky for falling stars, and, if the time is right, perhaps even see the Northern Lights flickering in the distance—only to be outdone by the laser light show projected onto the dam nightly from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
— Kate Gibbons
Photo Credit: Porcupine Beach at Lake Roosevelt/National Park Service