Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Potholes Canal and Chain Lakes, Grant County, Washington

Small Boats, Motors Allowed
Potholes Canal Chain Lakes and Access Points between O'Sullivan Dam and Othello, WA.

The Potholes Canal starts at the O'Sullivan Dam (which creates the Potholes Reservoir) then goes through the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge and Sheep Lakes area. Potholes Canal Chain Lakes is the name of the multiple lakes created by the canal. The navigate-able portion of the canal ends at the Othello WA. W. Main Street Bridge. This section of the canal is appropriate to boat on in late spring, summer, and early fall. Going beyond Othello main street bridge is dangerous due to many low bridges and pipes crossing the canal, in some cases being only a foot or two off the water. DO NOT BOAT AN INCH BEYOND THE OTHELLO MAIN STREET BRIDGE AS DOING SO IS LIFE THREATENING. The Potholes Canal was created during the same time as the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam for the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. Ever since the first waters were released into this canal water has never been absent from it and now its water sustains all forms of wildlife and recreational activity, particularly fishing. The canal runs through Soda, Pillar, Long, and Crescent Lakes (Upper & Lower) creating the chain lakes, then passes by the city of Othello and through numerous farms, and runs its course almost to Pasco WA. (one of the Tri-Cities) into the Columbia River. This section of the canal from O'Sullivan Dam to Othello is popular for kayak touring during the times of the season when the current slows. The starting points for entering the canal either starts near the O'Sullivan Dam or at the Soda Lake launch (see details below). Launching near the dam is done by hiking down a primitive gravel road for a few hundred feet and then portaging down a steep bank into the canal (only suited for experienced kayakers/canoeist). Launching at Soda Lake is where power boaters launch and then motor up the canal under Soda Lake Road bridge toward the dam. Kayaking or canoeing up this portion of the canal is not advised due to the very strong currents you would have to paddle against. Getting back into the canal after Soda Lake is done by portaging around the small Soda Lake dam, which is a fairly easy task for kayaks/canoes but not possible for powerboats. After Soda Lake Dam the canal passes through Pillar Lakes if one can call it that as this lake is very small and more like a wider part of the canal. Before you get into the next lake (Long Lake) the canal walls reach heights of 50-90 feet making it a very stunning section of the canal to boat in. Power boaters if you want to go up the canal to Pillar Lake you can launch in Long Lake. After Long Lake you enter about a 3 mile section of the canal that passes under the Sheep Lake Road Bridge and into Upper Crescent Lake followed by Lower Crescent Lake either of which have no access roads available. So if you are kayaking you will need to go all the way to Othello an 8 miles section of the canal. Power boaters of course can go of course into the into both Upper & Lower Crescent lakes and then motor back to Long Lake. Power boaters be advised that Lower Crescent Lake is shallow except in the main channel. Boating in the Canal ends at Othello main street bridge, you will pass under McMannaman Road bridge and a steel non-vehicle bridge before getting to the W. Main Street bridge take-out. All the bridges on this canal have a clearance of about 7 or more feet. About half way is Otter Bay a place you can stop to anchor or view wildlife. Seems a couple Otters like this not so picturist bay. Otter Bay is the only spot after Lower Crescent Lake that you can get out of the canal. Under the Othello main street bridge is a wide dirt area where one can get out of your craft. Kayakers/Canoeist can portage their craft up the bank to the road. The bank to the road is extremely steep so we recommend you tike a line to your craft to get it up the bank. Again do not pass an inch beyond the bridge due to all the pipes and low low bridges that cross the canal after the main street bridge. The canal depth ranges from about 10 to 40 feet. Soda and Long Lakes run a bit deeper at 20 to 80 feet. All in all the Potholes Canal is a great place to fish and kayak, and for the most part it's smooth paddling. Another note of caution is this desert area high winds are common and so check the weather report. I have actually paddled the canal when the wind was pushing us up stream against the current. Fishing: Different sections of the canals and associated chain lakes have different fish species - From O'Sullivan Dam to above Soda Lake Dam fish species are Spiny Rays; Walleye; Large & Small Mouth Bass; Crappie; Bluegill; Perch; Whitefish; Trout; Below Soda Lake Dam through Pillar, Long, and Crescent Lakes to Othello, WA. fish include Rainbow Trout; Walleye; Large & Small Mouth Bass; Crappie; Perch; Bluegill; Whitefish. Pillar Lake primarily has Rainbow Trout.

Canal and Chain Lakes Access Sites and Boat Launches - Starting on the north of the canal going SE to the city of Othello...

 
1. Potholes Canal O'Sullivan Put-In - This is the 1st Put-In site on the Potholes Canal which is just a few hundred feet below the O'Sullivan Dam. You should only put-in your kayak or canoe at this access point during slower current times of the year such as late spring or early summer, or better yet mid summer depending on flow rates. As you can see from the picture there is a cement three sided wall were an eddy is created. Portaging down the north outside of the wall is best due to there being a steep trail to use and small level area near the waters edge. Make sure to portage your craft down the wall with a rope because if you loose hold of the craft and if falls in the water the current will quickly take it down the canal. Also if you are using a sail yak do not put the mast up as there is a bridge just a few hundred feet down the canal. Once in the canal there is no getting out until you get to Soda Lake. Directions: From Moses Lake take HWY 17 south toward Othello; turn right (west) on HWY 262/O'Sullivan Dam Road. Before crossing the O'Sullivan Dam and just before the Dam is a boat launch on your left/north is a parking lot. This is the place to park your vehicle. The access road to the first Potholes Canal is just up the road from the boat launch is a very rough gravel road that is gated. This gravel round/trail traverses the dike on the west side of the canal. Hiking a short distance down the trail and you will come to a three sided cement wall that goes vertical into the canal water, this is the place. Maps: To view a map click on http://www.mapquest.com and type in, Potholes State Park, WA. pan to the east to view this lake a short distance below the O'Sullivan Dam.
Potholes Canal O'Sullivan Put-In.


Soda Lake Road bridge, Potholes Canal. Clearance 10' Depending on water level


Exiting the canal into Soda Lake
Soda Lake is the first lake in Potholes Canal Chain Lake series. Directions: From Moses Lake take HWY 17 south toward Othello; turn right (west) on HWY 262/O'Sullivan Dam Road. Before crossing the O'Sullivan Dam and after just passing the entrance to the Potholes Reservoir boat launch on your left/south is Soda Lake Road. Follow this road to either the sign indicating the Soda Lake Campground with launch or proceed further and take left at the next sign indicating Soda Lake which brings you to another Soda Lake boat launch. Maps: To view a map click on http://www.mapquest.com and type in, Potholes State Park, WA. pan to the east to view this lake a short distance below the O'Sullivan Dam.

2. Soda Lake Campground gravel Boat Launch. See Directions & Map Above.


3. Soda Lake Dike Road gravel Boat Launch. See Directions & Map Above.

4. Soda Lake Take-Out at Soda Lake Dam. CAUTION this access site is at the mouth of canal to the dam. Stay out of canal leading to the dam, extreme currents! If you enter the canal you may not be able to get out Once in the short canal to the dam there are high vertical rocks walls that would be near impossible to climb. In addition there is extreme under-toe at the dam. Directions: From Moses Lake take HWY 17 south toward Othello; turn right (west) on HWY 262/O'Sullivan Dam Road. Before crossing the O'Sullivan Dam and after just passing the entrance to the Potholes Reservoir boat launch on your left/south is Soda Lake Road. Follow this road to past the sign indicating the Soda Lake Campground to the next sign indicating Soda Lake, Pillar/Widgeon Lakes. Follow this road past the Soda Lake boat launch on the dike to the end of this dike. At the end of this dike turn right/south and then east to the parking lot. From the parking lot take the trail east and then north past a small pond to the dam. Cross the dam and walk just a short distance west to view the wide access site. Maps: To view a map click on http://www.mapquest.com and type in, Potholes State Park, WA. pan to the east to view this lake a short distance below the O'Sullivan Dam.


Soda Lake Dam looking NW into Soda Lake. CAUTION stay out of canal leading to the dam, extreme currents and under-toe! See Directions to the right / #4.

5. Potholes Canal Put-In just below Soda Lake Dam. There is no official put in point just locate the most accessible spot. Be advised at  the waters edge of the canal it's a straight 15-20 foot drop to the canal bottom. Directions: From Moses Lake take HWY 17 south toward Othello; turn right (west) on HWY 262/O'Sullivan Dam Road. Before crossing the O'Sullivan Dam and after just passing the entrance to the Potholes Reservoir boat launch on your left/south is Soda Lake Road. Follow this road to past the sign indicating the Soda Lake Campground to the next sign indicating Soda Lake, Pillar/Widgeon Lakes. Follow this road past the Soda Lake boat launch on the dike to the end of this dike. At the end of this dike turn right/south and then east to the parking lot. From the parking lot take the trail east and then north past a small pond to the dam. Cross the dam and walk just a short distance east to view possible bank launch sites. Maps: To view a map click on http://www.mapquest.com and type in, Potholes State Park, WA. pan to the east to view this lake a short distance below the O'Sullivan Dam.


Wide part of the canal after Soda Lake Dam is called Elbow Lake and is a good place to fish and get out of the current.

Pillar Lake - Another good place to fish and to get our of the current. 2nd lake in Potholes Canal Chain Lake series.


Notice the strong current. This pic was taken in early Sept. when the water level is its lowest and when the current is its slowest. This current is far stronger than it looks.

Long Lake - The launch is on the very northeast end of the lake and there are many places along the shoreline to access the lake from. 3rd lake in Potholes Canal Chain Lake series. Directions: From Moses Lake take HWY 17 south toward Othello; turn right (west) on HWY 262/O'Sullivan Dam Road. Approximately 2 miles up the road on your left (south) you will see the entrance to Sheep Lake Rd. Follow this road all the way to Long & Sage Lake sign. Turn right/northwest to access the Long Lake Boat Launch and primitive camping areas. Maps: To view a map click on http://www.mapquest.com and type in Potholes State Park, WA. pan southeast to view this Lake.


6. Long Lake gravel Boat Launch. Directions: See Directions and Map info above.


White Pelicans on Long Lake

Sheep Lakes Road Bridge, Potholes Canal. Clearance 12' Depending on water level.


Upper Crescent Lake - Shoreline is private and no access allowed. 4th lake in Potholes Canal Chain Lake series. Directions: From Moses Lake take HWY 17 south toward Othello; turn right (west) on HWY 262/O'Sullivan Dam Road. Approximately 2 miles up the road on your left (south) you will see the entrance to Sheep Lake Rd. Follow this road all the way to the Long & Sage Lake sign, turn right (west) and to the boat launch. From the boat launch boat southwest to the canal entrance and proceed down the canal. Exiting from the canal you will enter enter Upper Crescent Lake. Maps: To view a map click on http://www.mapquest.com and type in, Othello, WA. pan up/north and slightly west to view Crescent Lake.
Lower Crescent Lake - Shoreline is private and no access allowed. 5th lake in Potholes Canal Chain Lake series. Directions: From Moses Lake take HWY 17 south toward Othello; turn right (west) on HWY 262/O'Sullivan Dam Road. Approximately 2 miles up the road on your left (south) you will see the entrance to Sheep Lake Rd. Follow this road all the way to the Long & Sage Lake sign, turn right (west) and to the boat launch. From the boat launch boat southwest to the canal entrance and proceed down the canal. Exiting from the canal you will enter enter Upper Crescent Lake followed by Lower Crescent Lake. Maps: To view a map click on http://www.mapquest.com and type in, Othello, WA. pan up/north and slightly west to view Crescent Lake.

Many of  the small water falls along the canal between Lower Crescent Lake and Othello.

Potholes Canal Otter Bay near Othello WA.  A muddy bay that is not to attractive but the Otters seem to lake it.


W. McMannaman Road Bridge, Othello WA.


W. McMannaman Road Bridge, Othello WA. Clearance 7' Depending on water level.


Steel Irrigation Bridge, Othello WA. Clearance 19' depending on water level.


7. W. Main Street Bridge Take-Out, Othello WA. Clearance 6' depending on water level. Directions: From Moses Lake take HWY 17 south to Othello, WA. Turn right (west) onto W. Cunningham Road/E. Main Street. proceed through town. Proceed west through the cross street of S. Broadway Ave. stop light. Road turns into W. Main Street. Just after crossing S. Broadway Ave. on W. Main street you will come to a bridge. This is the place, park along the road by the bridge. The trail to the canals waters edge is on the south side of the bridge, then under it. Maps: To view a map click on http://www.mapquest.com and type in, Othello, WA. and follow directions to bridge.


W. Main Street Bridge Take-Out, Othello WA. End of our 45 miles kayaking/sail yak trip from the north end of Moses Lake all the way to this take-out. See article about this trip at http://www.funtosail.com

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