Want to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon away from crowds, traffic, civilization in general? Well then, do I have the perfect place for you!
My son, Matthew, and I did something we’ve wanted to do ever since looking at a map of eastern Lewis County. We took our kayaks to Lake Scanewa. It’s quite a drive. We logged over 65 miles on his odometer, and that was only the trip home! But was it worth it? How worthwhile is it spending an hour or two paddling around in a lake that has absolutely no summer houses, no outboard motors making noise, waves, and fumes and — in our visit — hardly a dozen people on the shore — all fishing.
As you may know, Lake Scanewa is the body of water created when the Lewis County PUD built the Cowlitz Falls Dam. Cowlitz Falls itself was eliminated when water began backing up behind the dam. A great many people moaned at the loss and I was among them even though I had only visited the site once, when my young bride, Frances (“Franky” to old friends), and I joined another Tacoma couple for an adventure. This was before our children were born, and we could get away by ourselves. I’m sure we stayed there overnight but I can’t remember where we slept because the area around there was still pretty primitive or logged-over land. Maybe our friends had a tent?
One of the attractions of those falls that I‘ve never forgotten was the swinging bridge which crossed the river at that point. We were told that, during the school year, children had to cross over the river on that bridge to catch a school bus.
But that location is now under the water which defines the lake. A glance at a county map shows that there are, essentially, three arms to the lake: the longest one leads upstream to where the Cowlitz River turns calm, another one covers where the Cispus River joins the lake and the third one leads, eventually, to the dam itself. If I could judge from looking at a map of Lewis County, I’d say there’s the equivalent of about 2 square miles of water in those three arms.
We spent most of our time paddling around an area which, if you look at a map, looks like the head of an octopus with only three legs. In our next trip to the lake, we intend to paddle as far as we can upstream on the arm (or leg) where the Cowlitz River becomes a lake.
There was one aspect of our circumnavigation along the shoreline which caught our eye and titillated our imagination. In many places around the perimeter of the lake, the shoreline is a bare cliff ... at least 20 or 30 feet above the water surface, embedded with rocks of various sizes ranging from about the size of a closed fist up to nearly beach ball proportions. They’re all rounded, just as if they were at the bottom of a river. Were those rocks high above our head, indeed, once the bed of a stream or river?
Or perhaps, like the rocks in Centralia, are they the remains of a glacier? It’s hard to think of a glacier that high in the hills, though. But maybe the hills were lower a couple of million years ago? I can’t remember…
In closing, I imagine I’ll receive the wrath of a good number of people in the east end of our county for letting it be known that such a quiet, unspoiled, relaxing place still exists. They might have thought that they had it all to themselves!
Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at email@example.com.