In the Okanogan region of Washington state, 20 miles from the nearest town and down a dusty gravel road is Lake Bonaparte. Surrounded by tree covered mountains teaming with wildlife, the view couldn’t be more gorgeous, and as we pulled up to our cabin on the lakes edge I knew I was going to get just what I came for, peace and quiet.
Although Lake Bonaparte isn’t a small lake, speedboats and jet ski’s aren’t allowed, and, while I usually prefer to zip around a lake with the wind and water in my face, the opportunity to enjoy pure stillness is so rare, that in the end I felt more rested than I had in years. Often, as I sat on the shore, reading a book the only noise that would break the silence was the distant cry of a loon, which also sounds eerily like a wolf howling, and I’ll admit it, I went running the first time I heard it.
For those of you wondering what the heck you do on a lake if you can’t speed around it, the answer is fish. Apparently it’s one of the best lakes for making a big catch in the region. I don’t fish. I don’t have the attention span for it, but I did see some people hauling in some big ones. So if your heart leaps for fishing, this is a lake to visit.
I do however swim, and Lake Bonaparte is a great swimming lake. See I have this phobia of things touching my feet when I’m in water, and so many lakes I swim in are full of seaweed. I know it’s irrational, but when seaweed touches my legs I have a panic attack. Lake Bonaparte does not have seaweed. At least not in the swimming area. So, in the afternoon, when the hot eastern Washington sun forced the temperature to climb into the 90’s you would find me in the water, for hours, and hours, and hours.
And for those rare moments I wasn’t in the water, I was looking at it, my eyes peeled for wildlife. This region of Washington isn’t only home to Northwest usuals like bears, mountain goats, deer and cougars, but occasionally you can hear or spot some rarer creatures. Although I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing one, we were told Moose are often spotted in some of the shallower areas of the lake, and, while I’m really thankful I didn’t run into a wolf, one of only 5 known wolf packs in Washington call this area home as well. But really, this lake goes to the birds. Osprey, Bald Eagles, Cranes and Loon’s are an ever-present site. I’m not a bird watcher, just like with fishing I don’t have the attention span for it, but I can’t deny that bit of excitement I feel when I spot something you don’t see everyday, I mean, there are some pretty cool birds out there!
Our home for the week was a 1940’s log cabin, complete with bunk beds, an ancient fridge and no bathroom. It was rustic to say the least, and you will be hard pressed to find anything nicer unless you haul your own RV or trailer up there. I personally didn’t mind the old-fashioned accommodations, and as a budget traveler, the price was perfect.
Would I go back to Lake Bonaparte? Absolutely. Like I said, I had one of the most relaxing weeks of my life, I got a tan, read 4 books and didn’t empty my bank account. Perfect. Would I recommend making a trip to Washington solely to visit there? No, but, it’s an easy pit-stop off of the amazing Cascade loop and a definitely worth a visit.
Location: Tonasket, Washington
Activities: Swimming, fishing, fly fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing, relaxing
Places to Stay: Lake Bonaparte Resort, National PArk Service Campground
Boat Rental (Lake Bonaparte Resort): $25/24 hours (rowboat or paddle boat)
Places to eat: The Lake Bonaparte REsort Restaurant has amazing food and it’s surpassingly cheap.
Cost of one night cabin rental at Lake Bonaparte Resort: $50, each cabin can fit up to 6 people.
– To save money grocery shop for everything you need before you get there. There’s a Walmart in Omak and a grocery store in both Republic and Tonasket. Unfortunately, if you forget something you’ll have a pretty decent drive back to town.
– If you’re staying in a cabin they have a full size fridge and a pretty lousy hot-plate to cook on. There is no cookware, plates or utensils, so you will have to bring your own. I also recommend bringing a BBQ, gas stove or fire pit grill. If you try to cook only on the hot plate you might never have hot food, or coffee for that matter.
– It does get chilly at night so make sure you bring warm clothes and a warm sleeping bag.