April 16, 1995 in Outdoors

Winchester Wasteway Canoe Paddle

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Canoeing trip notes

Access: From Interstate 90, take Dodson Road exit about 10 miles west of Moses Lake and head south 3 miles to parking and put-in site. Potholes State Park takeout is reached via O’Sullivan Dam Road.

Attractions: Desert waterway created in 1950s and 1960s by irrigation runoff and seepage flows through natural channels in maze of sloughs, cattails, sand dunes and sage. Noise of waterfowl can be wild during migrations, especially spring. Notable spring wildlife includes American avocets, sandhill cranes, herons, tundra swans, Canada geese, wide variety of ducks, vocal red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds. At sundown, coyotes join to serenade sand-dune campers.

Comments: Flows are best in summer and fall, but channel tends to be more distinct in spring. Later, weeds can obscure channel in some places. Stir mud with paddle or watch for weeds bending downstream to help identify channel current when route opens into sloughs or dead-ends against dunes.

Patience required for route-finding. Sense of humor perhaps more important than compass and map, which aren’t all that accurate for ever-changing channel. Expect dead ends and backtracking to find channel in first half of trip. Channel shallow in some spots, requiring canoes to be dragged briefly over sand, especially in summer.

Last few miles before reaching Potholes Reservoir flow briskly in a creeklike channel with SHARP turns and small, rocky rapids. Banks are steep and lined with thorn bushes. Novices - and paddlers who want to keep canoe bottoms pristine - can avoid this tougher section by taking out at gauging station.

Route includes two waterfalls. First is upstream from gauging station. Falls can be up to 3 feet high. Often runable on right side, or portage on north bank. Second falls, 25 feet high, MUST be portaged. Take out is scant 30 feet above drop off. Both falls can be heard well in advance.

Boats can be slid down sand dune at portage below second falls. Maze of dunes awaits at end of wasteway. Head northeast at first, then southeast into Potholes Reservoir skirting outside of brushy dunes toward tall poplars of Potholes State Park. Reservoir can be windy, but lee on west shore offers some protection.

Bring water: no potable water available on route. Undeveloped campsites abound, although mosquitoes frequent most good spots beginning in May. Fishing decent for bass and perch when water temperatures are above 50 degrees.

Avoid area after mid-October when duck hunters often set out decoys in wasteway. Area is hot in summer; waterway freezes in winter.

Information sources difficult to contact. Potholes State Park sometimes can be reached at (509) 346-2759, but staff rarely knows much about wasteway.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Check it out Distance: 25 miles, approximate Difficulty: Moderately difficult Paddling time: 12 hours or overnight Season: March through mid-Oct. Maps: USGS Winchester SE, Corfu and Mae plus Grant County road map.

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN - Routes: Classic Trips in the Inland Northwest

This sidebar appeared with the story: Check it out Distance: 25 miles, approximate Difficulty: Moderately difficult Paddling time: 12 hours or overnight Season: March through mid-Oct. Maps: USGS Winchester SE, Corfu and Mae plus Grant County road map.

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN - Routes: Classic Trips in the Inland Northwest


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