The history of the body of water that became Lake Roosevelt started with the Ice Age floods that carved the landscape, leaving huge boulders and abstract formations along the shores of the Columbia and Spokane rivers.
The lake, however, is a reservoir formed and so named after Grand Coulee Dam was built and the gates were closed in 1942.
The National Recreation Area is a great place for boaters, as we learned on one of those perfect summer days with the temperature in the 80s and a slight breeze.
At Fort Spokane, one of numerous access points on the 150-mile-long lake, the launch is a wide, solid cement slab with a gradual slope and docks on either side nicely trimmed with rubber to prevent damage to boats.
At the launch is an information stand with maps and a visitor’s guide that details the rules of the park as determined by three managing partners: National Park Service, Colville Tribe and Spokane Tribe. The rules vary depending on which partner is responsible for the area you are in so it’s best to check the guide or call ahead.
Lake Roosevelt has more than 630 miles of shoreline, according to a brochure put out by the Lake Roosevelt Forum. With this information and a map we set out traveling north with a destination of Porcupine Bay.
Our first feeling is that of overwhelming opportunity for recreation. Along the shoreline we notice several isolated sandy beaches nestled in between rocky outcroppings where groups of campers have pulled their boats onshore and set up camp.
To our right a seasoned wake boarder takes flight as he jumps several feet in the air, does a flip and lands safely on the other side of the wake.
We notice fishermen at various points along the river. Many with the kind of equipment for pulling in large fish; not a wonder, there are more than 30 species in these waters including walleye, bass, kokanee and rainbow trout. The lake also holds white sturgeon, but catching them is no longer allowed.
In the distance a sailboat with sails tight from the wind is moving along at a leisurely rate. One group of campers on shore pushes off and motors by us toward a large rock island. Three of the youth and an adult swim to the island and climb the rock for some cliff jumping.
We pull up on the east shore to sit in the shade of a thick growth of pine trees and have lunch. The beach is clean and the sand is fine — a direct contrast to the jagged rock bluffs across the water. We find a log and sit to eat and watch the cliff jumpers who appear to be having great fun.
“Well over a million people visited this lake last year,” I tell Roger as we watch the jumpers.
“I can believe it,” he says, “look at how far a person can boat and all the places to camp,” he runs a finger along the map tracing the lake.
After lunch we push the boat off shore and continue on to Porcupine Bay campground along the Spokane River section of Lake Roosevelt.
The terrain that follows along this part of the lake is as varied and rich as the history of the development and continued maintenance of this amazing recreation area. On shore we found numerous small coves etched out of the rocks, bluffs that meld into barren hills or thick forests that rise into mountains.
Porcupine Bay is a fully improved campground with a designated swim area, docks and numerous campsites full of tent campers and a few trailers. There are several children playing on the beach and in the water while the adults are sitting nearby in lounge chairs visiting. Like many of the campgrounds along the lake, Porcupine Bay is a great place to bring a family for a vacation.