June 18, 1995 in Outdoors

Bonnie Lake Paddle Tour

By The Spokesman-Review
 

PADDLING TRIP NOTES

Access: From Cheney, turn south on Cheney-Plaza Road toward Turnbull Wildlife Refuge. Continue south 17 miles (you might not notice name of highway changes to Rock Lake Road). Turn east on Miller Road. Drive 4 3/4 dusty miles on Miller and Belsby roads to put-in at one-lane Rock Creek bridge. Put-in also accessible from Pine City via Hole In Ground Road.

Attractions: Undeveloped scabland canyon lake accessible only by snaking up small creek, which excludes large powerboats. Excellent area for up-close look at red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds, canyon wrens, cliff swallows, redtailed hawks, turkey vultures, waterfowl, maybe rattlesnakes. Persistent anglers can catch crappie, perch, bass. Caves and natural bridge formed in terraced basalt walls that tower up to 600 feet above lake. Short hike leads to seasonal 150-foot waterfall.

Comments: Launch boats at bridge, then park as far off road as possible on one side of road to allow passage of farm machinery. Don’t block ranchers’ gates! Creek can be as little as 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep as it winds through cattails, bullrushes. Flow varies from spring through summer, but upstream paddling rarely difficult. Expect to see small boats with outboard motors.

Ice Age floods carved through layers of successive lava flows to gouge out canyon. About 3/4 mile upstream from put-in, look left to see natural bridge hollowed out of basalt wall by glacial flood eddies. Cave next to arch eventually will erode into bridge, too.

As route enters lake, accessible rest area is on peninsula to right. Beyond low-water mark is private land. Paddlers get feeling of moving through several small lakes as route winds around rocky points in 4-mile-long lake.

Aside from occasional rogue cows, wind is common safety concern in lake. Three men drowned here in separate windrelated incidents during 1980s. Few bays offer security in big blows. Vertical rock shorelines in some areas make beaching impossible. An easy 1 1/2-hour up-lake paddle could possibly turn into an afternoon epic on return.

Fire pits found at certain places on lake, but fires are NOT recommended. Area is tinder dry beginning in early summer. Charred remains of island trees are reminder. Island has granite outcroppings. Good picnicking spot. Bring garbage bag to pick up after all-to-common thoughtless visitors.

In early 1900s, Bonnie Lake was popular socializing and horseback riding area. Access road passes old rodeo grounds and dance pavilion. Bonnie Lake is in middle of canyon ranging south from Chapman Lake to south end of Rock Lake. In 1949, movement began to designate this 25-mile canyon as state park natural area. Campaign failed. In late ‘60s, state Game Department secured $750,000 to buy land for 10,000-acre public wildlife area along lake, but landowners wouldn’t sell. Only public land on Bonnie Lake is state section surrounding mid-lake island.

Public access prohibited to Hole In Ground Canyon namesake, which is on private land south of put-in. Chimneylike cave was formed when huge ancient tree burned to ashes after being surrounded by lava. Impressions of bark can be detected in lava cast. Old timers called it Devil’s Well.

In spring, 3/4-mile hike up from inlet reveals spectacular 150-foot Buckeye Falls. By early summer, it dwindles to a tall trickle.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Bonnie Lake Paddle Tour map

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CHECK IT OUT Distance: 11 miles round trip Difficulty: Moderate Paddling time: 4-6 hours Season: March through mid-Nov. Maps: USGS Chapman Lake, Pine City Info: Whitman County Parks and Recreation Dept. (509) 397-6238

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

This sidebar appeared with the story: CHECK IT OUT Distance: 11 miles round trip Difficulty: Moderate Paddling time: 4-6 hours Season: March through mid-Nov. Maps: USGS Chapman Lake, Pine City Info: Whitman County Parks and Recreation Dept. (509) 397-6238

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

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