Blythe and Chukar Lakes─Birds and beauty in the Channeled Scablands

DSC06472Location: Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Grant County

Land Agency: U.S. Department of the Interior

Contact: Columbia National Wildlife Refuge

Roundtrip: 3.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 300 feet

Note: Dogs permitted on leash. Be snake and tick aware


Good to know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, spring wildflowers, exceptional birdwatching

Access: From Spokane, take I-90 west to Exit 179 in Moses Lake. Head south on SR 17 for 2.0 miles turning right onto Road M SE. Follow for 6.4 miles turning right onto SR 262. Continue west for 6 miles turning left at MP 14 (across from the Mar Don Resort) onto a gravel road signed for public fishing, Blythe, Corral, and Chukar Lakes. (From Seattle take I-90 east to Exit 137. Then follow SR 26 for 25 miles east turning left onto SR 262. Continue 14 miles to lake turnoff) Drive this road passing Corral Lake and entering the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge in 1.3 miles. The road ends in 1.7 miles at Blythe Lake. Trail begins at a gated road.


Watch for ticks along the grassy trail.

The Columbia National Wildlife Refuge is a land of incredible natural diversity supporting important habitat for both breeding and migratory birds including sandhill cranes. An area of imposing basaltic coulees littered with lakes and marshes, it’s an oasis in an area that receives just over 7 inches of rain a year. Situated in the Channeled Scablands, a region formed by ancient cataclysmic floods; the lakes came to be through seepage from surrounding reclamation and irrigation projects. Both nature and man have left a large imprint here greatly benefiting scores of avian residents. The Columbia NWR protects nearly 30,000 acres of this enchanting landscape.

The hike along Blythe Lake to Chukar Lake is one of the many delightful explorations you can make in this harsh but beautiful environment. Beginning on an old road gently climb to a bluff overlooking the long and cliff enclosed Blythe Lake. Drop to marshy flats (teeming with mosquitoes in late spring) and after .5 mile, leave the old jeep track for a trail diverging right. Now traverse steep slopes climbing to a broad bench above the lake. Enjoy views of Blythe and the surrounding coulee.

Continue walking eastward on good trail for a short ways eventually coming to another old road turned trail. Bear left (east), and hike towards a beautiful basaltic cliff face. Crest a ridge that reveals Chukar Lake hiding below. Enjoy the lake from the ridge then follow the road down to Chukar’s east end. Call it a day or consider exploring smaller Scaup Lake and the extensive wetlands of the Marsh Unit I and II restoration projects by following old roads. Look for avocets, terns, quails, geese, and the myriad of songbirds and ducks. And throughout March watch the skies for migrating sandhill cranes. Their prehistoric calls announce their presence.

For detailed information on other hikes within the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge; and other great hikes (125 in all) throughout Eastern Washington, pick up a copy of my (co-written with Rich Landers) Day Hiking Eastern Washington (Mountaineers Books)!Day Hiking Eastn Washington

For information on where to stay and other places to play throughout Eastern Washington, consult NW Tripfinder!NWTFmasthead_layers15

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