Steamboat Rock State Park is one of the most popular state parks in all of Washington State. It sits right on Banks Lake, which is a man-made lake consisting of water pumped up a slope and into it from nearby Grand Coulee Dam. Steamboat Rock State Park attracts campers with all sorts of interests, but particularly those interested in boating, fishing, jet skiing, and kayaking. It has the look of something of an oasis as it is surrounded by rolling, sagebrush covered hills. If you’re lucky enough to be going there, get ready for lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation.
8 Steamboat Rock State Park Family Travel Tips
GET OUT ON THE WATER!
Steamboat Rock State Park is all about water recreation. If you have your own motorized watercraft, whether it’s a boat or a jet ski, you’ll love the fact that you have easy access to all 27 miles of Banks Lake. There’s plenty of room to find a fishing spot all your own or go waterskiing. Bring your kayaks and you’ll love getting to explore the nooks and crannies of the coves on the east side of the lake or the nearly uninhabited western shore where you can pull up out of the water and really be by yourself. You didn’t bring your own watercraft? No worries! There are also opportunities in the area to rent kayaks, pedal boats, rowboats, speedboats, and pontoon boats.
VISIT DRY FALLS
Located just south of the southern end of Banks Lake is Dry Falls. Dry Falls is part of the combined Dry Falls – Sun Lakes State Park. This natural historic site features a three and a half mile long precipice that was once the home of a massive waterfall that would dwarf present day Niagara Falls. You can not only view the rugged landscape left behind by these falls from the rim, but you can also explore it by driving down into it. There is also a great visitor center there with plenty of information. This makes for some exceptional photos too. People will wonder where you have been because surely such dramatic landscape can’t be from Washington State.
CLIMB THE NAMESAKE!
One of the key features of Steamboat Rock State Park is the rock itself that the park is named after. There are trails leading up to the top of the “rock” too where you can then enjoy the view of the lake and surrounding area. The top is essentially a small plateau and it isn’t unusual to see deer grazing on the plant life there. The climb is fairly moderate and most family members should be able to complete it without a problem.
WATCH FOR WILDLIFE
Steamboat Rock State Park is home to a lot of wildlife. Deer are both in the park and in the area surrounding it for most of the year. Many have become accustomed to people and it isn’t unusual to see them lounging in the grass near the entrance to the park or also in the campsite areas. Eagles can also be seen there and in the surrounding landscape. If you’re lucky, you may even see a bald eagle swoop down to the lake in an attempt to catch a fish.
VISIT GRAND COULEE DAM
Grand Coulee Dam is known as one of the top engineering marvels of the 20th century. It has historical importance but remains important to the country, and especially to Washington State, to this day. It’s also located just a short drive north from Steamboat Rock State Park. When you visit there, make sure to stop at Crown Point Vista, a scenic overlook that allows you to not only see the dam, but also the townsites, and Lake Roosevelt behind it. The visitor center at Grand Coulee Dam does a wonderful job of describing its history. One of the most unforgettable parts of a visit to the dam is staying for darkness when the laser light show starts. This narrated historical look at the dam and the Columbia River features laser generated images shown right on the face of the dam. Many people come back again and again for the laser light show alone.
VISIT SOAP LAKE
Soap Lake is the name of a lake and town a short drive south of Steamboat Rock State Park. This small town has an interesting history as it once was a popular destination for people from around the country and the world suffering from a variety of medical issues. The reason they headed there was due to the high mineral content in the water and mud of Soap Lake. On windy days, you’ll even see what looks like white foamy suds lather up along the shoreline. Go wading or swimming in the lake, or even head out on the water in a kayak. If you’re brave enough, you and your family can go true old school and enjoy a healthy mud bath. Soap Lake has a few restaurants and shops to enjoy too, as well as a nice park right on the water’s edge.
PREPARE TO SWIM!
One of the top activities at Steamboat Rock State Park for kids is swimming. There is a designated and roped off swim area on the east side of the park where you can take a dip and walk around on the powdery sand below the water. You can even swim out to a small island too. The location of the swim area shelters it from wind which makes it enjoyable all summer long. You can also venture out and swim in other parts of the park too.
EXPLORE NORTHRUP CANYON
Northrup Canyon is where to go if you’re visiting Steamboat Rock State Park and want to enjoy some hiking. This hike takes you up through a small Eastern Washington canyon lined with sagebrush and weeds. Bring water during warmer months as this can get quite warm at times. You’ll pass by an old homestead and see lots of evidence of the pioneer days of this part of the country. You’ll also be passing by a large grove of trees that during the winter are home to upwards of 200 bald eagles. The trail up Northrup Canyon is just over two and a half miles long and is rated a moderate climb.
Steamboat Rock State Park is one of the most popular Washington State Parks in the state. It doesn’t take too long of a visit there to see just why that is too. Whether driving through the area or looking for a place for a family camping trip, it could end up being just the thing you need for family fun.