Lake Cushman in the Winter

Having spent such a considerable amount of time looking for little visited areas in the backcountry or along remote shorelines, it easy to turn a bit snobbish when someone recommends a popular tourist destination. Especially, if it wins a local ‘best camping’ award. However, Lake Cushman does an excellent job of reinforcing the adage of ‘not judging a book by it’s cover’.

Hood Canal

The evening temperatures have been cold, at least by Puget Sound standards, dipping into the low to mid 20’s at night. With that in mind we choose to camp along Hood Canal rather than at elevation. I’m still learning the limitations of our pop-up trailer.

The closest site was Potlatch State Park. It’s a nice little park with water access to the canal but that comes with a cost. Highway 101 runs right through the middle of the park, and as this arterial connects Port Angeles to Olympia it has traffic round the clock. But the sites are moderately private and the view of the Canal is stunning. Not a bad choice in the off season.

Lake Cushman

Shortly after sunrise we headed up to the lake. This isn’t a natural lake but was created back in 1926 when the Cushman Dam No. 1 was built by Tacoma Power. It’s an impressive dam 275’ high and over 1100’ long. Tours are available to groups but there didn’t appear to be a soul around when we checked the area out. I imagine everything is remotely monitored these days with a quick ready response team nearby.

Lake Cushman
An axle we found below the high water mark on Lake Cushman. Photo credit: Steve Weileman

The lake was named for Orington Cushman, interpreter for Governor Isaac Stevens when treaties were being negotiated with local Indian tribes. It is over 8 miles long by 1 mile wide and when at normal levels has a depth of 115’. As impressive as the lake is the peaks that surround it. They are spectacular especially when dusted with snow.

The lake itself was low. I mean like 30’ below what looked like the normal level. But that gave us the opportunity to see quite a bit of the shoreline and the amount of logging that was done in preparation of the lake. Doing a bit of exploring we came across a rear axle and differential to some vehicle. Would love to know the story behind that!

We passed countless waterfalls draining into the lake, all encrusted with icicles. Traveling west we eventually passed into the Olympic National Park but were quickly turned around by the large snowfall on the road. We’ll be back in the spring thaw to continue with our exploration of the area. For now winter has the place locked up pretty tight.

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