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Delighting anglers in eastern Washington, Williams Lake really serves up the trout! The long and narrow 320-acre lake is located less than 30 miles from Spokane near the little town of Cheney. Although a few homes perch on the northern and eastern shoreline, most visitors arrive at one of the two resorts that serve guests. Although Williams Lake has no public beach, one of the resorts offers day passes to its sandy beach for swimming, picnicking and dock fishing and is usually the destination for locals seeking a day at the lake. Boats can launch at either resort for a small fee or at the public boat launch.
The long and usually windswept lake is a favorite among sailing fans who regularly launch at the public boat ramp where there are no overhead wires. Sailboats are warned, however, that during periods of low water, this ramp may be too shallow for larger boats. All motors are permitted and waterskiing, jet skiing, sail-boarding, tubing and pontooning are favorites on hot summer weekends. Both resorts rent boats and motors, with kayaks a favorite among day visitors.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has stocked the lake with cutthroat trout, rainbow trout and triploid rainbow trout. A few tiger trout (sterile hybrid trout) can also be caught. Williams Lake is considered one of the best opening day trout fisheries in the region. Especially for Father's Day, an extra 400 triploid trout averaging one-and-a-half pounds are stocked just before the holiday weekend, giving Dad an excellent chance at a real, keeper-size catch. More than one family has been known to plan their annual summer vacation at Williams Lake to coincide with this special stocking schedule. Fishing licenses can be obtained from the resort stores or bait and tackle shops in the surrounding area. An access permit is required when using any WDFW lands.
For those planning a week or more at Williams Lake, the resorts offer a variety of lodgings. Cabins are available for rental as are campsites for tents and RVs. A few lakefront sites are available on annual lease. Some of the private homes also offer short-term rentals, often with a boat included. Both resorts also offer an on-site restaurant that is open to the public. Regular boating clients regularly visit both restaurants for a meal while cruising the lake. The small, quiet roads around the lake are ideal for walking and bicycling. Although the immediate shoreline is mostly well-treed, the surrounding area is the bare basalt left behind from the ice-age floods that scoured all soil from the area in the distant past. The landscape is starkly bare of vegetation, lending a surreal backdrop to the waters of Williams Lake.
Williams Lake makes the ideal base for investigating the unique landscape of these 'Channeled Scablands'. Not far from Williams Lake, a section of the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of terrains left behind after the last floods created by the sudden draining of prehistoric Glacial Lake Missoula. Here, the sudden floods left behind potholes that became wetlands and small lakes where a variety of migratory birds and waterfowl nest. Human interaction has drained many of the small wetlands in the area for farming, so these small patches of preserved landscape offer an ideal opportunity to observe the large numbers of birds and wildlife that thrive in these natural places. In spring, the small meadows fill with wildflowers, and songbirds arrive to nest and raise their young. Mammals large and small can often be seen, either grazing in the lush meadows or hunting those doing the grazing. During hunting season, a few permits are issued for controlled hunting to keep nature's balance fine-tuned.
Many other lakes similar to Williams Lake can be found in the area. Badger Lake is just to the northeast of Williams Lake, with Downs Lake to the southwest. All are likely the remains of a former watercourse that no longer exists. Myriad small pothole lakes dot the surrounding land. Any arable acreage is farmed. The area shows the evidence of flood scouring in the expanses of basalt, many broken cliffs showing signs of early waterfalls and rushing torrents long disappeared. Farm towns and villages in the area maintain their western roots, with heritage festivals, rodeos and annual events. It isn't hard to find a town ice scream social, a barbecue or a parade during the summer.
The Town of Cheney holds Cheney Rodeo Days in July, an event centered around a PRCA-sanctioned rodeo with a $40,000 purse. The Ice Age Flood Institute produces materials helpful to visitors taking a self-guided tour of the Channeled Scablands, with occasional educational events open to the public. As the home of Eastern Washington University, Cheney has cultural and arts-related events scheduled regularly. Two college theaters, an art gallery and many special interest events such as discussions with contemporary authors and musicians will provide something to interest nearly anyone. Several hotels in town join bed & breakfasts in providing lodgings to those who desire a bit of luxury rather than a camping resort. And big-city Spokane is only 20 miles up the road.
Spokane offers four-season fun to visitors, with plenty of outdoor adventure such as whitewater rafting, downhill skiing, horseback riding and golf. Wineries, craft breweries and unique restaurants all provide their specialties, while nightlife comes packaged in every style from dancing to karaoke to live music. Water parks, tours, amusement parks, spas and race tracks can all be found in the Spokane area. With Williams Lake only a half-hour away, a little fly fishing or a lot of sun-soaking and beach time can be available on short notice. Make Williams Lake a Father's Day favorite for years to come.
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