8 • JULY 2014
Ron Bullock of Spokane enjoys the fishing last month at the Liberty Lake boat launch. The public access location is operated by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. Story and photos by Treva Lind CURRENT CONTRIBUTOR
The lakes of Liberty, Newman and Hauser offer summer playgrounds only a short drive from Spokane Valley. Decades ago, residents traveled there by train, and multiple resorts thrived with names like Sandy Beach, Sig’s and Honeymoon Bay. Families flocked to picnic and swim or stay for vacations in cabins. Hauser also drew early visitors, some who settled there in pioneer times. Today, these three backyard lakes still lure guests as they have since the early 1900s to swim, boat and fish. Others feel drawn by the beauty of water and shoreline, welcoming them to rest, cool off and picnic.
Liberty Lake This gem sits the closest to Spokane Valley within about a 5-mile hop or less on Interstate 90. It’s named for pioneer Stephen Liberty, who homesteaded there in 1871. With a total lake acreage of 706, Liberty has a mean depth of 23 feet and maximum depths at around 30 feet. This lake enclosed on three sides by small mountain ranges has long been a summer destination. In 1910, the electric train started making regular stops at Liberty Lake, bringing thousands to “Spokane’s Inland Seashore.” Today, people drive there to splash and play at the Liberty Lake Regional Park, 3707
S. Zephyr Road, or launch their boats at the public access site operated by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. The boat launch is located at the end of Third Street off of South Molter Road. Fish & Wildlife touts Liberty Lake’s best catches as largemouth and smallmouth bass, brown bullhead and yellow perch. Washington residents who bought a fishing or hunting license also received a vehicle access pass that’s good for parking at the Fish & Wildlife’s public access sites. “If you don’t have a license and are accessing for boating or birding, then you have to buy the Discover Pass,” said Madonna Luers, an agency spokeswoman. More information is available at discoverpass.wa.gov. Other summer playtime options are found at the county-operated regional park, on the southeast side of the lake. Between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., the entry fee for the park is $2 per person over the age of 6. The park has nearly 3,000 acres, a small beach, wetlands, mountain hiking trails and a campground. At the sandy beach, lifeguards are on duty 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May to September, weather permitting. New this year is the option to rent and take lessons on standup paddleboards. Center Fin Standup Paddleboards is a private business under contract with the county to set up on Friday evenings and weekends at the beach this summer. Center Fin owner Chris Cindric said the business will offer lessons, rentals and tours
to get people outfitted and on the water Fridays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. “On Fridays, we offer what we call a twilight lesson and tour from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.,” Cindric said. “It’s $55 per person and includes a one-hour lesson followed by a group tour paddle around the lake. We talk about lake and historical aspects. Then we offer a cheese tray and nonalcoholic beverage after we come back.” Cindric said people learn to use standup paddleboards fairly quickly. “The board serves as a platform you can sit on, kneel on or stand on,” he said. “You can rest on it or lay on it. There’s also a great fitness component.” On Saturday and Sunday mornings, Center Fin will offer a 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. $45 session that includes a one-hour lesson followed by one-hour rental time when people can paddle around on their own. Following that time, the business has 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. rentals available at full-day, half-day and hourly rates. More information is available at www.centerfinsup.com, or call 270-7588 for details. For other recreation, the park has a sandy volleyball court in the beach area, picnic tables and a play set for children. People also can explore 8-plus miles of hiking trails to find large cedar groves, a waterfall and old cabin. “We do see people regularly bring kayaks and canoes and use our beach to launch,”
said Chris Hoppe, county recreation program manager. “We don’t allow any glass, dogs or alcohol on the sandy beach itself,” he added. “In the grass park area just off the beach, you’re allowed to have those. People can bring picnic food, though, on the beach. We love for people to make it an all-day experience there. We see lots of families.” Camping fans also have a new option this year. The county has built two lakeview cabins in the park available to rent at $45 per four people a night starting July 1, with reservations taken online at the county’s parks and recreation website. By next year, the county plans to build two additional cabins. Each structure measures 12 feet on each side and has four bunk beds and a fold-out table. People bring their own bedding and food. Electricity is available inside and outside the cabin, and running water is outside the cabin. Each cabin also has a covered porch and a small campfire pit in the ground about 10 feet from the front. Some weekends are already booked. The campground site has 17 RV sites and nine regular tent campsites. One additional campsite is available for a large group of about 12 people. Though some weekends are already booked, people can find out about rates and register for available times on the county’s online reservation system at www.spokanecounty.org/parks/.
See LAKES, page 9