Tag Archives: Kayaking

Lake Alder adventures

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Trying to get out of the crowds, and into some water?  With this heat wave, it can be great to take a break from hiking in the sun, and spend part of your Mt. Rainier visit lounging on Alder Lake!

About 15 minutes before the Nisqually entrance to Mt. Rainier lay one of the jewels of the Nisqually Valley.  As the Nisqually River flows from the Nisqually Glacier, through the park, and through Ashford (passing just a mile from our Visitor Center), it empties it’s jade-colored water into Alder Lake at Elbe.  Formed by Alder Dam, Alder Lake stretches 7 miles, past the town of Alder, winding along HWY 7.

There are three fantastic parks for your family’s enjoyment (all part of the Alder Lake Park system).  If you have a paddleboard, kayak, canoe, motorboat, jetskis, or other water vessel – bring it along! Park fun includes swimming areas, boat launches, barbeques, bathrooms, playgrounds, and plenty of picnic space – but not all three parks include all facilities.  Read on for the what’s what of Alder Lake summer fun!

Driving west from the Ashford Visitor’s Center on SR 706, you’ll reach Elbe after 7 miles, and join HWY 7.  Drive through Elbe, and you’ll see the first park, Rocky Point Campground on your left.  With the least facilities of the three parks, Rocky Point is best used for it’s boat launch, camping and fishing.  There are a couple of picnic tables, but there is not a swimming area. There are 25 campsites with electric and water hookups, and a bathroom facility. You can fish for largemouth bass, rainbow and cutthroat trout from this westernmost area of the lake, and the boat launch is free of charge.  It is a great option for launching the boat when the other parks are super-busy! More info can be found at http://www.mytpu.org/tacomapower/parks-recreation/alder-lake-park/rocky-point-campground.htm

Sunny Beach Point is 3 miles further west along HWY 7. There is a swimming beach, a sheltered picnic area, restrooms, and 20 picnic tables with grills. Sunny Beach Point is open May 15th – September 15th, and there is always free entry.  No alcohol allowed, and there is no camping. Pets are welcomed on-leash. More information can be found at http://www.mytpu.org/tacomapower/parks-recreation/alder-lake-park/sunny-beach-point.htm

Alder Lake Park is .6 miles west along HWY 7 from Sunny Beach Park. Alder Lake Park is the most expansive of the parks by far, with a swimming area, boat launch, and 149 campsites. There are coin-operated showers and restrooms.  The park has free entrance on weekdays, and a $5 parking fee on weekends and holidays.  If the day-use parking lot is full, the gates will be closed, but that does not mean the park itself is closed! Open year-round.  More info at http://www.mytpu.org/tacomapower/parks-recreation/alder-lake-park/

Bring your family, dogs, swimsuits, and a picnic blanket and soak in the beauty of Alder Lake.  Summer doesn’t get much better than lake swimming, bbqing, boating and camping!

Details:

Rocky Point Campground
52910 Mountain Highway E
Eatonville, WA 98328

Sunny Beach Point:
50316 Mountain Hwy E
Eatonville, WA 98328

Alder Lake Park
50324 School Rd
Eatonville, WA 98328

For all 3 parks (all part of the Alder Lake Park system):
Park office: (360) 569-2778
Fishing and recreation line: (888) 502-8690

*Note – while State Highway 7/Mountain Highway is closed to through traffic for construction this summer, the parks are still accessible, as they are considered local traffic. Coming from the south, continue through road closure signs.  From the north, follow the detour routes, until you can pass the road closure signs from the south as directed above.

Paddling around Rainier

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Are you looking for other outdoor recreation for you and your family around Mt. Rainier?  A paddle on the Nisqually or Cowlitz River could be just the ticket.

The Nisqually river runs out of the park right alongside SW entrance, and through Ashford, WA. The Nisqually is recommended for more experienced paddlers, and not recommended for canoes.  The drop-in is at Skate Creek/USFS-52, where the bridge crosses over the Nisqually.  The drop in is about 5 minutes fro the Visitor Center, and the take-out is about 6 minutes away, so make sure to drop by for a visit! This run is about 11 miles, paralleling SR 706 until the takeout where Hwy 7 crosses the Nisqually in Elbe, just before Alder Lake.  A Class II and III run, this is a fast-paced run (3 hours or less) that carves through narrow slot canyons at the three-mile mark.  Scouting this section of the river is recommended, or kayaking/paddling with someone who is familiar with the river.  As the run progresses, it opens up for a few miles, allowing a few glimpses of Mt. Rainier and her glory, before passing under Hwy 7 and gently folding into Alder Lake.

To get to the Cowlitz river from our Visitor Center in Ashford, drive east on SR 706 for 3 miles,a and take a right on NSFS-52. You’ll cross over the aforementioned  drop-in for the Nisqually run, and travel on this beautiful scenic road for 22 miles before arriving in Packwood. There is camping along Skate Creek as well, though camping spots are generally taken early on weekends.

Kayaks and canoes frequent the Cowlitz in a few different sections, depending on the experience of the paddler. One put-in is at La Wis Wis campground, just a few miles east of Packwood.  There is 7.5 miles of Class II water, and the take-out is under the Packwood bridge (where USFS-52 crosses over the Cowlitz).  This run is best run at high water, April through mid-July.  It is possibly to run later in the summer/fall, but you may have to portage your vessel over shallow areas. Not recommended for young children.

A personal favorite is to put-in at the Packwood bridge (NF-52 crossing over the Cowlitz), and do the 11 mile float down to the bridge where Hwy 12 crosses over the Cowlitz.  This stretch is a fun one since the water runs at a steady pace and keeps you moving.  The run takes about 3 hours non-stop, but the mountain views are spectacular if you look back over your shoulder, and the fishing and river beaches are definitely worth pulling over for. Plan for 5-6 hours and take your time.  This section of the river is also Class II, but you’ll have to keep an eye out for sweepers (logs and log jams that can be dangerous if not avoided).  This section is not recommended for young children.

If one is looking for a family-friendly paddle, you can put in at the aforementioned bridge between Packwood and Randle where Hwy 12 crosses over Cowlitz, and float 9-10 miles until the 131 crosses over the river, just a quarter mile of Hwy 12 in Randle. This section is slow and winding, so make sure to plan by bringing plenty of water, and sunscreen.  The float takes plus or minus 5 hours non-stop, but longer if you take significant or frequent breaks. This is a great one for families, and there are plenty of spaces to camp for those that want to take it easy and make it a two-day adventure. Bring your fishing pole for this section as well!

While both rivers are accessible and gorgeous, paddlers should always take precaution.  Always paddle with a friend, scout areas that are unknown, and check your gear.  Remember that these are glacial waters and even the best swimmers will have a challenge fighting the cold if you do roll, and always wear your life jacket.  Be safe out there!