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Know the West

Lakes vanish - and then return

  Over the past decade, a 10-mile stretch of lakes, creeks and a waterfall in southwestern Washington's Lincoln County disappeared. This spring, they came back.

Pacific Lake, Tule Lake and Delzer Falls, all part of the Lake Creek water system, are among the watering holes that dried up, much to the dismay of local residents. A 10-year drought was to blame, says Linda Gustafson of nearby Odessa. She says heavy snows this winter and an especially wet spring have brought the water back.

Drought was only part of the picture, says Gary Yeager of the Spokane Bureau of Land Management. He says farm irrigation compounded the drought by tapping springs that traditionally filled the lakes. The lakes have dried up before, but Yeager says the region's present wet cycle should keep the lakes full for the next several years.

To celebrate the water's return, the Bureau of Land Management is building recreation facilities at Pacific Lake and Twin Lakes. The $60,000 in improvements include new picnic and camping areas, boat launches and improved road access, and the state Department of Wildlife has stocked the lakes with some 50,000 trout.

"These lakes really bring back lots of memories," says Don Walter, editor of the Odessa Record and longtime Lincoln County resident. He recalls excellent fishing in the years before the drought, and is thrilled that dry days are over for the moment. "Right now the lakes are full to the brim," says Walter. "They're looking better than ever."

*Emily Miller