The campers and RVs are already beginning to fill up the prime spots at area campgrounds, but there’s still plenty of room to roam at Sullivan Lake, one of the largest natural lakes in the Columbia Highlands.
Below, three family-friendly attractions that explore the history, natural beauty and wildlife of the Sullivan Lake region.
Mill Pond Historic Site
Pend Oreille County celebrates its centennial this year. The Mill Pond Historic Site, which also turns 100 this year, showcases the ingenuity and craftmanship that enabled settlement of the Sullivan Lake region. Here, early settlers dammed Sullivan Creek, creating a reservoir from which a four-mile-long flume diverted water to a hydroelectric plant downstream. This hydroelectric plant provided the first power to Metaline Falls. A 2/3-mile interpretive trail showcases several historic structures, including the remains of the flume, giving visitors a glimpse into the pioneer history of northeast Washington.
Directions: From Metaline Falls, follow State Highway 31 north for 2.4 miles to the junction of Sullivan Lake Road (County Road 9345). Turn right (south) and follow the Sullivan Lake Road for 3.2 miles to the entrance.
Elk Creek Falls
This leisurely two-mile loop hike leaves the Mill Pond Historic Site and gradually climbs toward Elk Creek Falls through intact forest that’s been proposed as an addition to the Salmo-Priest Wilderness. Along the way, peer down upon Mill Pond and Sullivan Lake, both of them great choices for a post-hike dip.
From Metaline Falls, follow State Highway 31 north for 2.4 miles to the junction of Sullivan Lake Road (County Road 9345). Turn right (south) and follow the Sullivan Lake Road for 3.2 miles to the Mill Pond Historic Site entrance.
At the headwaters of Harvey Creek, Bunchgrass Meadows Research Natural Area protects a mid-elevation pond and rare sphagnum bog, home to the only population of northern bog lemmings in the region. Several species of rare butterflies flit among more than 130 plant species recognized in this rare and sensitive ecosystem. This is a birdwatcher’s paradise, and chances are good of seeing moose and other four-legged critters. Bring boots, binoculars and bug spray.
Directions: From SR-31 at the south edge of Ione, go east on Sullivan Lake Road across the Pend Oreille River bridge. In 6.5 miles, turn right (south) onto Harvey Creek Road (FS 1935). At 6.5 miles, bear left at the “Road Narrows” sign. At 9.4 miles, at the apex of a large left-hand turn, park at closed forest road 1935-050 (the road is marked with a road closure sign but no road number). Walk this old spur, which is quickly reverting to its natural state, ¼ mile to the meadow’s edge.