Travelback Thursday | The Ancient Lakes

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A desert with lakes?

Have you ever seen a desert with lakes and a waterfall? Actually not just a waterfall, but a waterfall gracefully flowing into a lake? How can this place even be true? Well, it is and it’s gorgeously beautiful for hiking.

The long story behind the Ancient Lakes in Washington State began as far back as 40-60mln years ago, when the so called Grand Coulee was formed. It is a huge ancient river bed which belongs to the Columbia Plateau and its name (“coulée“) comes from French and means to strain/to flow (in a manner similar to lava).

To cut the long story short: the region is close to the Eastern edges of the Cascade mountains where a “Rain shadow effect” has created an area with very dry and hot climate. 

 

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Simultaneously, it is also a part of the Grand Culee which I mentioned earlier: a giant bedrock which kept uplifting and subsiding over the course of millions of years and has undergone a series of major volcanic eruptions, in areas which were later covered by glacial ice which subsequently cause massive floods in the area. Dynamic, isn’t it? No wonder it is such a fascinating place. Nowadays, there are huge irrigation distribution networks across the Columbia basin and the combination of all these factors gives you the ultimate hiking dream: a scorching desert with lakes and a waterfall.

The trail is located in Eastern Washington state, near Quincy and the basin of the Columbia River. I used to live in Seattle back then, so the Ancient Lakes were about a 3 hour ride away from home across Interstate 90.

On the way to the trail

Along I-90 there is a cool landmark which is really worth visiting. The steel horses of Grandfather lets loose the ponies can almost fool you from the distance.  The string of ponies is running towards the edge of a hill overlooking the Columbia River and it makes for a great side stop for photos along the way.

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The hike

 There are paths through the steppe and fairly easy to find passages along the rocky parts of the terrain. Make sure you have sturdy shoes and watch out for your balance because some of the softer types of rocks get easily broken when you step on them.
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The Ancient Lakes area spreads over 15,000 acres and although some spots seem to be really close- the terrain can get tricky and slow you down. What looks like a 15 min walk might take you more than an hour in some areas.
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