Beware of shortcuts and our recent trip to Riffe Lake was a powerful reminder of that cliche. But these little mishaps are what make for great stories. But oh the price we pay sometimes.
Riffe Lake is probably best known for swallowing not one but two communities; Kosmos and Riffe. The lake is a manmade reservoir that was created by the completion of the Mossyrock Dam in 1964. Rising 606’ from bedrock the dam, built by Tacoma Power to provide electricity to communities 75 miles away, was controversial from the start. Some wanted power, others wanted their homes. Guess who won?
During times of low water you can still see the structures under the water’s surface. Kind of creepy.
For us, we just wanted to explore the south side of the lake and set out to do so on a hot afternoon. We hadn’t gone far when we had to climb through a scree field due to tree tops that were blocking the shoreline. The bank they rested on must have collapsed sometime during the winter. It wasn’t until we were fully committed that I realized just how unstable the field was and not only were we dislodging ankle breaking rocks below us but above us as well.
So we decided to look for an alternate route back to camp. That’s when I noticed a logging road paralleling the shoreline. Should be hard to cut the road and have a leisurely walk back.
Four hours later we dragged into camp muddy, sore and in my case on the losing end of stinging nettle. The shorts which seemed such a good idea at the start of the hike were soundly being cussed out towards the end.
Well, it made for some good laughs as we had dinner and a cold glass of ice tea. Lesson relearned….again.
Cowlitz Falls Dam
After our little misadventure, we decided to spend the next day exploring via the FJ Cruiser. Looking at our topo map it appeared that NFD would lead us up river to the Cowlitz Falls Dam.
The Cowlitz Falls Project is a 70 megawatt hydroelectric dam that was constructed in the early 1990’s. The dam and power generation facility were completed in 1994. The dam is 140 feet high and spans approximately 700 feet across the Cowlitz River. The reservoir behind the dam has a surface area of approximately 700 acres.
On the drive up to the dam we passed multiple falls and creeks flowing to the Cowlitz River; beautiful and well worth the drive. The dam itself is small compared to others and so is its reservoir lake but again it’s in beautiful country.
There’s been some controversy about dams in general with the remove of many from our waterways. Because of the other dams located downriver, this particular dam is responsible for impeding fish runs but according to their website the are working with the other dams to improve the anadromous fish reintroduction program for the upper Cowlitz River.