Off Season at the Wynoochee Dam

Miles of pristine highway was leading us north toward our destination, but where was everyone? Something seemed off in all of this.

Lake Sylvia Fall Colors

Last year during our first visit to Lake Sylvia State Park I was intrigued by the large population of deciduous trees surrounding the lake. It’s always hard to tell if you’re going to get a muddy color or something that really pops, but we knew we needed to come back in the fall and see what the lake had to offer. Finding our self’s at Wynoochee Dam was the last place we expected. 

And so we did. Unfortunately, I think we mistimed the change and arrived a bit too early to really get that explosion of color. The cool air combined with the calm waters gave the place that characteristic charm of fall. The leaves were indeed changing but we weren’t getting the brilliant colors I had hoped for.

Wasn’t what we had planned, but there was still plenty to explore which is exactly what we did.

Our volunteers collected water quality data from 128 Wild and Scenic Rivers, enabling federal and state agencies to improve accountability and inform river policy, protection, and management decisions.

Our Timber Tracking volunteers collected samples from 787 locations (and counting!) across the range of eastern black walnut, enabling the US Forest Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service to combat illegal logging.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration incorporated our microplastics data into their global marine microplastics dataset. 

Finding a Lost City

To be honest, we didn’t actually find a ‘Lost City’…actually, I doubt we were the first to find these structures either. We headed off on a couple of trails we hadn’t had time to follow our last visit.

The trail snaked over hills and down into gullies as it followed the creek draining Lake Sylvia. It was on the return portion of the loop that I noticed all the brickwork near the tail. After seeing multiple patches. I released this had to be part of some lost structure which had been reclaimed by the damp forest.

Looking at the surrounding area more closely I realized I was looking at a trestle of some sort. Just as I was congratulating myself on my keen archeology skills Theresa noticed the reader board which explained this was the site of an old sawmill from the first homestead in the area. Oh well…..

Miles of pristine highway was leading us north toward our destination, but where was everyone? Something seemed off in all of this.

Miles of pristine highway was leading us north toward our destination, but where was everyone? Something seemed off in all of this.

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Wynoochee Dam

Lately, dams have been getting a bad reputation and I understand the reasoning behind that. However, the boy in me still wonders when I come upon one and look at the engineering behind it. Visiting Wynoochee Dam in the offseason is just one of the moments of wonder.

The Wynoochee Dam was built by the Army Corp of Engineers in 1972 to help control floods in the area. It wasn’t until 1994 that Tacoma Power added a 30MW hydroelectric generating plant downstream from the dam. Although access to the dam has been restricted since September 11, 2001, tours are available by appointment.

We also explored the Coho Campground on the west shore of the lake. It’s a beautiful campground with 45 campsites available as well as some yurts and walk-in sites. Be warned that there didn’t appear to be any cellular service and as it’s about 30 miles north of Aberdeen you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of gas to make it back.

There were few campers when we drove through but I imagine that’s not the case in the summer season. I think we’ll be back to try it out as a base camp and explore more of the Olympic National Forest in this area.

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