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Lake Wallula, a 64 mile long reservoir, is a wide open glassy lake that extends from northeastern Oregon to southeastern Washington. Lake Wallula received its name from the small town of Wallula, Washington which was flooded when the area began to fill with water in April 1953 after the building of McNary Dam. Townspeople moved further from the lake and began the new town of Wallula.
McNary Dam was named for Oregon senator Charles L. McNary (1874-1944) who campaigned for better navigation on the Columbia River. Because of McNary's efforts, Lake Wallula and McNary Dam were built and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers forming a multi-purpose and beneficial lake to the area. The Lake Wallula and McNary Dam area includes a lock that lifts boats an average of 75 feet to aid in navigation, two fish ladders to aid salmon and steelhead returning to spawn, and irrigation capabilities for area farms. One of the largest hydroelectric power facilities in the United States, McNary Dam also includes two additional turbines whose purpose is to power the dam itself so the McNary Dam is entirely self-sustaining. While visiting Lake Wallula, visitors may take tours of the McNary Dam operating facility.
The landscape around Lake Wallula is wide open with few trees and arid conditions. All 16,908 acres surrounding Lake Wallula are public lands utilized for recreational purposes, wildlife habitat, and water-connected industrial development. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service leases approximately 3,500 acres of the public land for the McNary National Wildlife Refuge which supports large numbers of waterfowl due to the managed habitats in the area. The refuge was built to replace the natural habitats lost due to the filling of Lake Wallula.
Twenty two recreational areas surround Lake Wallula. These areas offer swimming, boating, camping, water skiing, wake boarding, fishing and hunting. Lake Wallula's recreational facilities range from undeveloped remote beaches, to group picnic areas, to full service campgrounds with electrical and water hookups. Lake Wallula has 17 locations around its shoreline that provide public boat launching facilities.
Whether you visit for a day, a leisurely long weekend, or an extended stay, Lake Wallula will provide you with ample opportunities to enjoy the water, beautiful scenery and wildlife.
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