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News / Sports / Outdoors

Out & About: Now is time to visit South Prairie ‘Disappearing Lake’

The Columbian
Published: June 10, 2023, 5:49am
2 Photos
Don't dawdle if you want to visit "Disappearing Lake'' at South Prairie. Some years the water remains until early July, but it can drain at any time.
Don't dawdle if you want to visit "Disappearing Lake'' at South Prairie. Some years the water remains until early July, but it can drain at any time. (Allen Thomas for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

WILLARD — Water conditions are ideal for kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding at South Prairie, also known as “Disappearing Lake,’’ in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Most of the year, South Prairie is a large meadow at elevation 3,042 feet, about 15 miles north of Willard in Skamania County.

But for a few weeks in spring, the meadow is an approximately 85-acre lake, several feet deep, and makes for a unique kayak, canoe or paddle board experience.

About a dozen groups were on the “lake’’ last weekend as South Prairie is full, right up to the edges of Gifford Pinchot roads Nos. 66 and 6615.

During winter, lava tubes beneath South Prairie are filled with ice. In spring, as snow melts and rain falls, South Prairie is filled with water, briefly forming the shallow lake.

As the weather warms, the lava tube ice plug melts and South Prairie drains, just like a big bath tub.

Islands of black cottonwood dot the edges of South Prairie. There is also a small stand of Trembling aspen, a species rarely found so far west. The lake has a bayou-like feel to it.

South Prairie can be reached by taking state Highway 14 to Cook, then following the Cook-Underwood and Willard roads to the community of Willard. Stay heading north on the main road to the junction with Gifford Pinchot road No. 66.

Follow road No. 66 (left) to South Prairie, at the junction with road No. 6615.

South Prairie also can be reached from Trout Lake by following state Highway 141, then Gifford Pinchot roads Nos. 24, 60 and 66.

Expect closures on parts of Carson-Guler road No. 60

CARSON — Temporary closures are anticipated on the lower portion of Carson-Guler road No. 60 in the southern Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Culverts are being replaced, asphalt repaired, retaining walls installed and hazard trees cut between milepost 0.0 and milepost 8.4.

Road No. 60 will be closed from sunrise on Friday mornings through Sunday evenings. On Mondays through Thursdays, there may be up to 30-minute delays.

The work is expected to take until about the first week of July. The Forest Service will provide an update by June 21 regarding the completion date.

Four Corners, where roads Nos. 65 and 60 meet, is accessible via Panther Creek road No. 65 and Warren Gap road No. 6517 to reach road No. 65.

Another round of closures will occur in August on the same segment of road No. 60.

Iron Creek campground closed by fire

RANDLE — Iron Creek campground in the Cowlitz Valley district of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is closed until further notice due to a fire.

The fire was reported in the campground at about 2 p.m. June 3, the Forest Service reports.

As of Thursday there are 188 personnel assigned to the fire in the Cowlitz Valley district including an 18-person hand crew and a tree-falling team.

Iron Creek is a large campground with 98 sites. It is on a flat along the Cispus River in a stand of old-growth Douglas fir, hemlock and cedar.

Summer salmon fishing on Columbia opens June 16

OLYMPIA — Summer Chinook salmon, sockeye and steelhead fishing on sections of the Columbia River opens from June 16 through July 31 from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco and from Richland to Priest Rapids Dam.

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The preseason forecast for upper Columbia summer Chinook at the mouth of the Columbia River is 85,400 compared to a return of 78,494 in 2022.

The summer season recreational fishery for sockeye and hatchery summer Chinook opens June 16 on the Columbia River from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to Priest Rapids Dam. In addition, hatchery steelhead re-opens downstream of the Highway 395 at Pasco on June 16.

For full fishery details and regulations, see the emergency rule change online at WDFW’s website https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/emergency-rules

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