By: Julie McPherson | Recreation Planner, Bureau of Reclamation Ephrata Field Office

With Daylight Savings Time here and the extended forecast boasting temperatures in the 50’s, we are starting to feel like spring is finally on its way to the Columbia Basin. Recreation opportunities abound year-round throughout the approximately 350,000 acres of Columbia Basin Project (CBP) lands managed by the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and its partners, and spring is an especially exciting time to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

It’s hard to think about outdoor recreation in the Basin without considering our many lakes and reservoirs. Many of these lakes have developed due in part to the CBP. For example, prior to the Project, the Basin had 20 lakes and ponds. Today there are over 140! The Winchester Ponds Regulated Access Area was developed through partnership and cooperation between Reclamation, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited, and the Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District. Blinds which are popular to hunt waterfowl from in the fall also provide an excellent spot for bird watching during the spring. Bring your camera and see which of the many migrating waterfowl species you can spot!

Ice fishing, which is popular across much of Eastern Washington, is winding down for the year with melt off rapidly occurring. March 1st was opening day for fishing on many of the bodies of water in the Basin, and people come from all over Washington to participate in the fun. Some of the lakes which recently opened include Burke Lake, Dry Falls Lake, Dusty Lake, Upper Caliche Lake, Cascade Lake, and Lenore Lake.

If you’d like to get the family out for a picnic, Washington State Parks operate some beautiful facilities on Reclamation lands through cooperative managing agreements. These include Potholes State Park and Steamboat Rock State Park. There are several free days throughout the spring when Discover Passes are not required for Day Use, including March 19th, April 20th, April 22nd, June 1st, June 8th, and June 9th.

Summer Falls Day Use Area, a Reclamation owned and managed park on the northern end of Billy Clapp Lake, is expected to open on April 12th. People come to admire the scenic views of the waterfall in the background. You can contact the Reclamation Ephrata Field Office at (509) 754-0214 if you’re interested in reserving the Summer Falls Day Use Area for a special event such as a wedding or birthday party. Scooteney Park is open to Day Use year-round, but the campground is also expected to open on April 12th.

Sandhill Cranes can already be seen and heard making their spring migration through Scooteney Park and all across the Columbia Basin. If you love birds, Othello’s Sandhill Crane Festival is a fun family event to attend on March 22nd-24th.  You also might enjoy a drive or hike in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge to remind you just how magnificent our local landscape is. Don’t delay; get out and take advantage of the many recreation opportunities available in the breathtaking Columbia Basin!

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