Break out your boat for a freshwater adventure!

Freshwater boating

A peaceful paddle at Steamboat Rock State Park is the perfect way to get away from it all.

June 5, 2019

Got boat? Or a hankering to go boating?

Kayaker devotee, sailor, canoe enthusiast, motorboat fan or paddleboard partisan—whatever your craft preference, chances are this is the time of year you are dreaming of tacking and jibing, gliding over glassy waters, going for a wild ride on white water or jetting out for a fast-paced run down a river.


While Washington is famous for its marine waters, it’s also home to some of the most beautiful and bountiful — and even historic — freshwater lakes, streams and rivers. With access to gorgeous waters and boating conveniences galore, your lake and riverside state parks in central and eastern Washington are THE places to launch! Some state parks even offer boat rentals for your convenience.


Freshwater boating

The boating is bountiful on Banks Lake in Steamboat Rock State Park. Photo: Benjamin Scott 

Sacajawea Historical State Park

The location: At the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers in Pasco
The stats: Two boat ramps drop in to a protected freshwater lagoon, and you can moor at any of the 200 feet of open dock space on the 9,100 feet of shoreline.
The skinny: Small park, big fun! Sacajawea packs an entertainment wallop for being just 284 acres. Water ski, fish, canoe, kayak, sailboard, stand-up paddleboard. Or if you just want to enjoy the water, use the ample beach to swim or cast your line from the docks. When it’s time to dry off, head in to one of the two kitchen shelters or 130 picnic tables for a barbecue. Then, visit one of the coolest interpretive centers in the northwest, or reflect on the past in one of the seven Story Circles, an art installation by Maya Lin.


Drop on in! Boat ramps make it easy to put in for the day at Potholes State Park.

Potholes State Park

The location: On the Potholes Reservoir in Othello
The stats: Four boat ramps give you access to recreation-ready waters under the Columbia Basin’s brilliant blue skies. A roomy parking lot easily accommodates boat trailers. Travel tip: This park can get WINDY. Know the weather before you go!
The skinny: Potholes State Park is a true oasis! Drink in the warm desert air as you cruise the open waters under sapphire skies. You’ll find great places for whitewater rafting and kayaking, too!

Steamboat Rock State Park

The location: On the shore of Banks Lake in Electric City
The stats: Boat ramps in three locations give you access to the protected waters of the Devil’s Punch Bowl or Osborn Bay. From there, you can explore Banks Lake. Large parking lots at Northrup Point and Steamboat accommodate boat trailers. Docks are available at all launches for loading and unloading. This is an excellent time of year to fish for walleye and bass on Banks Lake! Travel tip: bring your bug spray.
The skinny: Another desert jewel, Steamboat Rock State Park is a 5,000-acre playground with all the amenities that make family fishing and boating a breeze. Basalt columns rise dramatically from all sides of this wild-west water wonderland. Fish, water ski, even sail board! Let the kids swim on the sandy beach if they get too warm on the playground equipment. After a day on the water, have a picnic or barbecue on the wide green lawns. Stay the night, and enjoy more time on the lake, or even enjoy the other activities the park is known for including rock climbing, mountain biking or just a game of basketball on the park’s court!

Riverside State Park/Nine Mile Recreation Area

The location: On the Spokane River in Nine Mile Falls
The stats: Three boat launches give you dam-to-dam access to this winding waterway flowing through a 10,000-acre swath of classic Eastern Washington forest. Use caution putting in at the launch near the Little Spokane River, where waters can be turbulent. The Little Spokane is ideal for whitewater rafting and kayaking but NOT inner tubing. Canoes and kayaks can be rented at the Nine Mile Recreation Area for $25 a day from May 15 to Sept. 15.

The skinny: A river runs through it — and makes it a ton of fun! Riverside State Park is an outdoor entertainment mecca, and the boating and fishing are superb. A word of caution to newbies: The Spokane River can get rough in some places and at certain times of year. Check in with park staff, or do a couple of runs with a local before trying it on your own. If you prefer calmer waters, stick to the north end of the park where Lake Spokane offers opportunities for water skiing and paddling. Park staff say NOW is the time for fishing on the river where trout, bass and perch have been abundant. A large park with plenty of camping and lots of other amenities, this is the ideal park for planning a family boating vacation!

Freshwater boating
Kayaking is a popular paddle sport on the Spokane River. Photo by Uncle Jerry.

Washington State Parks Boating Program

Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission administers the state’s Recreational Boating and Clean Vessel Act programs. Our great state is fortunate to have some of the most beautiful and FUN places to play on the water in the world. Our goal is to reduce accidents and fatalities, keep Washington waterways nice and assure that recreational boating is a safe, accessible and enjoyable pastime. Partners include law enforcement agencies, state agencies, marinas and boating organizations across Washington.

Visit the Boating Program online or call (360) 902-8555.

The Basics

Just wear it! 
Check out this video on how to choose and fit a life jacket!

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