Why Be Inside
With nearly all the Northwest rivers nearing flood stage it's a good time to get out and explore some lakes. For our last adventure we headed out to Turnbull Wildlife Refuge, a wild section of lakes, sloughs, and puddles that get lost on the map. Overshadowed by the mountains and dense forest to the north this slightly random area southwest of Spokane really surprised us with its rugged terrain and one-of-a-kind island camping. Thanks to Paddle Routes of the Inland Northwest we found our way into Bonnie Lake for the night and were happy we did.
The route to Bonnie is unconventional. The gravel roads that lead you their wind aimlessly through miles of plowed fields. It feels more like your on your way to the Corn Maze rather than a cliff-lined lake. The boat launch is in a place called hole in the ground. It is a slough. Boats coming down from the lake look they are paddling through a dry meadow. The parking is limited, the access rough, and a small handful of unlucky fisherman were the only one we shared it with.
We paddled against the very slight current, through handfuls of songbirds and cattails as the basalt canyon narrowed to meet the lake's outlet. We passed a fascinating and seemingly very rare basalt rock arch. Tucked into a defile cross canyon was a wild waterfall cascading from the plateau. All around us were rims of basalt capped with stately pines. The scenery went from meadow to cliffs in maybe a mile of paddling.
All the while the birds singing loudly and the greening grass beneath the wide-spaced pines contributed to the park-like atmosphere. We paddle into the lake and reach a small spit. The lake opened up to us and further north we could see an island, looking out of place and stuck in its location clogging the lake channel between high cliffs. The sun was setting and we hugged the east shore to take it the last warmth of the day.
Reaching the fairy-tale island we discovered some well used camps. We lit a fire using old fence parts I gathered at the put-in. We drank, ate, and were merry. Osprey and bald eagles visited our island home. The stars were bright, it was a warm night, the fisherman had long gone back down the slough to their trucks. It was easy to forget were maybe an hour from home. With the wildness of the place it was easy to forgot that Spokane was just an hour over the hills.