Thursday, August 18, 2011

The "Potholes" Lakes

This is a picture of Blythe Lake in Eastern Washington as the sun is coming up.

I had a free day in the middle of the week, so I decided to go fishing in the “Potholes” in Eastern Washington. The eastern part of the state is high desert—very stark, uncluttered and peaceful. In the summer it’s warm and sunny.  At midnight I put the canoe on top of the car and drove 200 miles to Blythe Lake, arriving shortly before sunrise.

When I first got there it was still dark and the bull frogs all around the lake were croaking. It sounded like they were trying to get their cellos in tune-- very deep tones. But then a few started something that reminded me of the Australian Didgeridoo. And when I walked around the car I would hear splashing when the frogs and turtles jumped into the water. Different sounds than in the city.

About 15,000 years ago, towards the end of the last ice age, the Cordilleran Ice Sheet covered the northern parts of Washington, Idaho and Western Montana. The front edge of the ice sheet was about 2,000 feet high. That’s about three times the height of the Seattle Space Needle.

In what’s now Montana, there was a lot of water trapped behind ice dams, which were part of the ice sheet. That water is now referred to as Glacial Lake Missoula and may have been about half the size of Lake Michigan. Every 40 years or so during a 2000-year period, the ice dams would burst and all that water would rush across Eastern Washington at about 80 miles per hour. The water would scour the earth, pushing sediment and rocks out of the way and down into Oregon and beyond. The erosion was fierce. Enormous canyons and channels were formed in the volcanic rock almost instantly.

Dry Falls is an example of the vast erosion caused by the Missoula Floods (sometimes called the Spokane Floods). When water was flowing over Dry Falls, it was about twice as much as Niagara Falls. You can get all this information on the web.

Blythe Lake is near Moses Lake. The Moses Lake area has many lakes, commonly known as "potholes," which were initially carved out by  the floodwaters from Glacial Lake Missoula. Moses Lake feeds the Potholes Reservoir, which is part of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project, a dam and irrigation project which raised the water table high enough to allow the potholes to become lakes. Blythe Lake is just south of the reservoir.  It's one of the little dots at the top left of this photo:

I don’t know if Blythe Lake is “officially” one of the potholes, but most people refer to all the lakes in the area as “The Potholes.” So, I went fishing in “The Potholes” (although there is an actual lake with that name). You know what I mean.

Anyway, I got there before sunrise and put the canoe in and paddled around the lake. I tried dragging a spinner behind as I paddled; I anchored and tried worms, both deep and shallow, and Power Bait, both deep and shallow. Never a bite or sight of a trout. This little guy got hooked on a worm, but I threw him back (along with the pliers shown in the picture).

While I didn’t catch any trout, it was six hours on the water well spent. The surroundings were beautiful. You could hear the air going through the feathers of the birds as they flew by. You could hear your own breathing. I was the only person at the lake—all day. That’s my car shown in the photo. It was great. After six hours on the lake, I drove back home.

The canoe worked well. The wind was really up coming home, and it was blowing sideways on the canoe. But, the canoe held up. That’s a picture of the back rest I made for it—you can lean against it or sit on top. I also learned that I can stretch out and fall asleep on the bottom of the canoe. That could work in a pinch.

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