Flickr album link: Burkett Lake Recreation Area
Exploring the many destinations along the Columbia River in central Washington can be a fulfilling experience, but in this age of rampant price gouging the trip is guaranteed to be a costly one. This is especially true if Google Maps is used for navigation, because this software will inevitably take unsuspecting tourists to the wrong access points nearly every time and plenty of fuel will be wasted. Data signals are scarce in this desolate region, so it is best to chart a course well ahead of time and do the research necessary to ensure that you arrive exactly where you intend to go, instead of finding yourself stranded in the wrong end of a park. Those who have used the Google mapping system to find their way to the Hanford Reach National Monument can attest to how this mapping system seems to not have a clue in this part of Washington.
To make a long story short, I was on my way to a job at Mt Rainier and my travel route went through Yakima on the way there. Just east of Yakima there are a few destinations worth checking out along the Columbia River, so I charted a course to connect the dots. The Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge was the first stop, but it was a disappointment. This wildlife refuge is surrounded by a riverside industrial zone, so it has limited appeal that was not worth featuring in an article. The next stop planned was Hanford Reach National Monument, but I attempted to access this destination a few years prior and Google Maps had still not updated the incorrect access points, so I once again set this destination on a back burner. The Wild Horse Monument is located next to the bridge over the Columbia to Yakima and this destination was already featured in this website. While sitting on the side of the road I used a real GPS device to browse for something to do that would not be a waste of time and a relatively small local destination appeared. The Burkett Lake Recreation Area was a short drive south of the bridge, so I pointed the Jeep in that direction.
The Burkett Lake Recreation Area is a local park that covers a private man made lake that was created along Lower Crab Creek, which is a Columbia River tributary. This region is composed of high desert grassy hills and mountain peaks, so the setting of this lake certainly is picturesque. Upon arrival, I was surprised to see modern facilities and ample parking, along with newly constructed boardwalks and fishing piers.
Burkett Lake is surrounded by cattail reeds, so it does attract migrating waterfowl and song birds. My original intention was to do some birding, but the high winds from earlier in the day put a damper on this prospect. It was getting toward the evening hours and several carloads of families with fishing poles in hand arrived, so it was easy to see what this local park was all about. The Burkett Lake Recreation Area definitely is a nice day use area for family fishing fun, especially when fresh caught trout and panfish are planned for the dinner menu! Better still, there is a second destination on the far end of the lake that also attracts local sportsmen. The Beverly Sand Dunes is a haven for four wheelers and motocross bikes, where playing in the dirt is a popular weekend activity. These two lesser known destinations are very easy to access and the signage is well marked, so be sure to keep these two spots in mind when touring the Columbia River Region in central Washington!
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