Surprise Surprise Lake Merwin Paddle was Great!

23 05 2010

Monte at the falls!

The weather has once again sucked us back into the black hole of some kind of winterish mix. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of the stubborn gray clouds hanging around the PacificNW in May 2010. We’ve had a few beauties, but most gorgeous days are teasers in between a week of ugly. So, this past week when I had a Paddle NW Meetup scheduled for Lake Merwin, I was not exactly jumping out of my seat with anticipation. Then, the last evening three people dropped out. Rather than just cancel I sulkingly drove up there. Monte and Bibi did come, and that made me feel a lot better.

On the way, I did a double take seeing the local search and rescue vehicle…hmmm…budget cuts!

Better not need a rescue!

Once suited up in my dry suit, I was ready for anything. We were prepared. The plan called for heading east up the end of the lake and then ducking into canyon creek. So we snapped on the spray skirts and headed out. Wouldn’t you know it the sun came out. It was really pretty, the gray/white/blue sky and then the dappled sunlight on the hills around the lake. It wasn’t windy at all.

Bibi after lunch, ready to go...

Lake Merwin is one of three major hydraulic dam reservoirs in the Lewis River system. The other two are Swift Reservoir and Yale Lake. They’re owned by PacifiCorp. The company runs recreation sites along the reservoirs. On the east end of Merwyn, we put in at Spelyai Bay, which is day use only. Further up is Cresap Bay, and it’s a day use/boat launch, swimming area and campground.

The lakes lie in deep gorges, so the banks can be steep. There are not many places to land a kayak. We found one just beyond where route 503 crosses the lake on a suspension bridge. It’s got a fire ring and picnic tables. There, Bibi, myself and Monte had ourselves some lunch. The weather cooperated, which was very nice. Not widely known is that Merwin is home to a population of Tiger Muskellunge – a very aggressive upper Midwestern fish commonly growing over 50 inches! They were planted to control the squaw fish invasive species. But I’ve got to think the Tiger Muskies will devour everything!

Once done, we hopped back in the boats and headed further east. Somewhere at the east end of the lake, Canyon Creek, famous for its hairy whitewater, enters, but we were really wondering where the heck it was. Finally we rounded a bend and there were floating balls across the lake with a sign warning DO NOT GO FURTHER – DAM. But just before this barricade was the outflow of Canyon Creek. We headed up this little canyon and eventually found the last rapid of the creek, a 3-foot waterfall entering the lake.

Not long after, we ran into two other kayakers who turned out to be friends of Andrew’s. Andrew had canceled, but his two guests wanted to paddle regardless of the weather. They were really pleased with their luck. Nice folks – Richard and Ginette. We paused and visited for maybe 20 minutes. They continued up into the creek, while we started on our way back. We encountered a major downpour, and I kind of wondered about Bibi, who wasn’t wearing a hat! But she’s got a thick head of hair! She said she wasn’t bothered at all. She was having a good time!

Richard and Ginette

Eventually we reached Cresap Bay Recreation area and explored it a little. I couldn’t decide from what I saw if it’d be worthwhile coming back there to camp. Once back out on the lake, we ran into Richard and Ginette again, and the five of us paddled back to our put in. The sun came out while we took the boats out, and that was pleasant! I’d say we’ll return to Lake Merwyn sometime!