Eastern Washington is full of flatwater lakes just calling your name. You may not get the coastal beaches of the west side, but you will not think twice after seeing the glassy surfaces reflecting the beautiful landscapes Eastern Washington has to offer. With more sunshine and less boat traffic, Eastern Washington is a kayaker’s paradise.
Places to Kayak in Eastern Washington
Eastern Washington is home to so many places to kayak. There are lakes and rivers around every corner beckoning you to take a float. Here are some of our favorites to get you started.
Banks Lake is a 35-mile-long lake that is well known for its fishing and shoreline campgrounds. Littered with islands and islets, Banks Lake is the perfect place for curious kayakers and trips with friends and family.
Steamboat State Park is the main campground in the area and requires reservations in order to stay overnight. This park has large campsites perfect for big groups or families. Steamboat State Park is equipped with all the amenities (bathrooms/showers, full hookups, lawns, boat launches, beaches, fish cleaning stations, etc.) However, there is a charge to launch and park.
We suggest putting in at the north end of the campground; if you paddle north you can explore a bunch of islets. Beach your kayak on the small islands and hike around to see the sweeping views and rock formations. These islands are great places to eat lunch, take a break, or to just feel like you’re paddling through the landscape. You’ll notice that some islands are perfect for cliff diving (you may see others jump), but be extremely cautious and careful.
In the summer, the water is warm enough to swim and the campground provides several swimming areas and beaches to relax on. However, the park does get busy in the summer months, so there may be boat traffic and many campers around you. But if you feel like leaving the campsite for a while, Grand Coulee is just 14 miles away providing several stores and restaurants to choose from. The Grand Coulee Dam also puts on a free laser show each night throughout the entire summer.
This 40-mile lake is perfect for anyone looking for a warm and dry getaway. During the summer you can expect blue skies, the sun overhead, and an average temperature of 75 degrees. The shores are lined with beautiful homes to gaze at, but watch out for crowded weekends that may bring in boat traffic.
There are several places to rent gear, including kayaks. But if you are interested in trying something new they also have canoes, jet skis, boats, and four-wheelers for rent.
The lake itself wraps around the city and gives views of many different parts of this growing town. There are several hotels and campgrounds to choose from for accommodation. And along the shoreline of the lake, you can find anything from the sand dunes (ORV park) and shady city parks to playgrounds and fountains.
All launching and parking is free in Moses Lake. Launch for free at Blue Heron Park and you’ll have so much to see and do, you could paddle all weekend. The town of Moses Lake is full of a bunch of things to do and try. Downtown is full of stores, shops, sweets like ice cream, and attractions like Surf n’ Slide Waterpark — which costs less than $6 a person for an entire day.
Anywhere near Spokane and looking for a perfect day trip for the family or friends? Bear Lake is a great place to relax for the day and soak up the sun. 15 miles north of Spokane, this spring-fed lake’s surface stretches nearly 35 acres.
Bear Lake Regional Park is home to many amenities including parking, hiking trails, tables, BBQ areas, picnic shelters, playgrounds, swimming areas and a volleyball court. There are two picnic shelters, one of which can be rented out for a small fee for birthday parties, reunions, or other gatherings.
Cle Elum Lake
The glassy waters of Cle Elum Lake reflect the Cascade Mountains surrounding it. The scenery undoubtedly makes up for its rocky shores, and the refreshing and clean water is perfect for summer days.
Exploring the waters is endless with the Cle Elum Dam, several places to beach, and so many landscapes to soak in. Several launch points are beaches with small parking lots above and the option to park right on the beach — both are free. You can put your kayak in right from the beach and be on your way!
The town of Cle Elum and nearby town, Roslyn, house grocery stores, shops, bars, and restaurants to fill your day with more adventure and fun.
Nestled in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, you’ll find the crystal clear waters of Lake Wenatchee. This glacier-fed lake has everything you need for an awesome weekend: camping spots, bathrooms, beautiful waters, boat launches, and picnic spots. Be sure to bring lots of water, snacks, and anything else you may want so that you can paddle and explore the lake all day.
Mattoon Lake is located in Ellensburg, Washington. It is a very small lake by the highway but is perfect for locals that want a quick adventure or love to fish. You may have some noise and a view of the highways, but it is a great place to float and fish. Depending on where you live in the burg, this trip may only take just a few minutes.
If you are looking for a fun and easy day of paddling, the Yakima River may be the best fit for you. If you have multiple people and vehicles equipped to carry kayaks, you can park one vehicle at the place you’d like to stop and then drive to a place to put in kayaks. Then, drift down the river all day until you’ve reached your other vehicle.
The river will naturally push you downriver, making this trip perfect for families with kids or seniors that may need a little extra help paddling to make it through the entire day. With so many different landscapes and inlets to explore on your way down, you are sure to have a fun and relaxing float.
Some places to put in and out:
- You can put in at Umtanum Recreation Area and take out at Roza Recreation Area
- Start at BigHorn Campground and pull it out at Big Pines Campground
Both of these floats are about three and a half hours long. However, if you are looking for places to rent a raft or kayaking gear check out our article on rentals and tours.
Put in at Lake Easton State Park and explore all the inlets and beaches of Lake Easton. Paddle alongside trains and under bridges while taking in the sweeping views that Easton has to offer.
After a long day of paddling, Easton State Park campgrounds are the perfect place to unwind around a campfire and maybe even take one of their trails that are built in between campsites leading to parts of the lake, and the Easton Diversion Dam.
Lake Chelan is one of the clearest lakes to kayak on the east side. Despite the busy summer weekends, this glacier-fed lake has endless views to take in. Kayaking in the early morning or right at dusk will help to minimize boat traffic and make for a smoother ride.
During the day you can soak in the sun, swim in one of their designated swimming areas, go boating, picnic, or go fishing. Lake Chelan is known for its excellent fishing, so hopefully you can cook some salmon, trout, or bass over the fire for dinner.
Put in your kayak at the boat launch on the north end of the lake and paddle down the incredible waters of Liberty Lake. The boat launch is right near the town’s business district. This route is perfect for couples, families, or friends that would like to walk through town before kayaking.
On the south end of the lake is Liberty Lake Regional Park. Although this park does not have a boat launch, it is perfect for families because of the beaches, swimming areas and nearby hikes (where you’ll see streams, cross bridges, and even see a waterfall).
There are several places for lodging near or on the lake including Zephyr Lodge, Sandy Beach Mobile Villa, Liberty Lake ORV Park, and Liberty Lake Regional Park Campground. The Liberty Lake Regional Park Campground is equipped with well-kept bathrooms, camp spots and a large common lawn. The RV spots and tent camping are kept separate, giving tent campers a better chance at a good night’s rest.
Washington is home to so many beautiful places to paddle. There is still so much to explore right in our own backyards. If you are thinking about taking a short road trip to see what the west side of Washington State has to offer, read our article about all things kayaking in Western Washington. It will give you the best places to see and explore.