The beauty of small lake resorts is you can do as much as you want, or you can do nothing at all.
That lesson was reaffirmed on a recent trip to north central Washington. My wife, two children, and I spent time on the shores of Curlew Lake near Republic and of Wannacut Lake near Oroville.
We spent some of our time exploring each area. We also spent time on a dock tossing Power Bait, hoping to a catch a trout. The kids and their friends borrowed my fishing net to catch painted turtles. Then there were the times when the grown-ups sat in camp, while the kids roamed and played.
Sure, there were nearby state parks where we could have stayed, but for this trip we were looking for a few more amenities. And depending on your budget, you can find resorts in north central Washington that cater to your every need – or those that provide far simpler amenities.
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At Curlew Lake, we opted to pitch our tent at Black Beach Resort.
This is a resort that caters to the serious fisherman and the retired RV-driving crowd. Part of that is because of the popularity of the fishing on Curlew, which is a lake where you can catch chunky rainbow trout, hard-fighting largemouth bass, or large and toothy tiger muskies.
I knew we were in for a welcome stay even before we got to there. Sharon Collins, who owns the resort with her husband, Al, called us to let us know their tent sites were waterlogged because of the rainy spring. “Don’t worry,” she said. “If you still want to come, you can set up in one of our RV sites.”
Turns out, that was a good option. We picked a spot under two large trees that gave us plenty of shade in the afternoon. The fishing dock and the play area were just across the camp road. We also had a great view of an osprey diving into the water in search of its next meal.
The resort served as a good base camp for exploring the area. One hot and sunny afternoon, we unearthed 49-million-year-old fossils at the Stonerose Interpretive Center in Republic. Afterward, we found some cold and tasty ice cream treats at Eich’s Mercantile. It also has Wi-Fi for those who absolutely have to stay connected.
Another afternoon, we swam, fished and picnicked at nearby Curlew Lake State Park.
Each evening, the resort offered us shade from the hot eastern Washington sun, plenty of room for the kids to run off the last of their energy, and a comfortable spot to cook dinner and enjoy a few s’mores.
In our three days at the resort, I noticed a strong sense of camaraderie, especially among the anglers. Whenever the kids and I set up our gear on the dock, we always got encouragement from the boat anglers as they came and went.
One time, before getting our gear, we spent a few minutes chatting with one kindly gentleman. A couple of hours later, he made sure we saw the lunker rainbow trout he landed. He even gave us a tip – white Power Bait fished off the bottom – that proved correct. We had fresh trout for breakfast the next morning.
A little more than an hour to the west, our next stop was Sun Cove Resort on Wannacut Lake. Our plans to take a few day trips – fishing for Lahontan cutthroat trout on nearby Blue Lake or making a quick trip to Canada – were scrubbed within 30 minutes of arrival.
That’s because Sun Cove is a one-stop resort. If you don’t feel like camping, stay in one of its small cabins – they are more like large motel rooms, but they include a full kitchen.
Don’t feel like doing your own cooking? Head to the small restaurant. Inside, resort owners Brian and Gail Anderson make wonderful homemade meals and pies, using recipes handed down by the original owners. They also make some delicious cinnamon rolls that you can preorder for breakfast.
Sun Cove is a place where a family with young children can give the kids plenty of freedom. There are few rules – the most paramount being kids younger than 12 need to wear life jackets on the dock and cannot go into the pool without a grown-up – and plenty of opportunities to have fun. Our son and two friends spent hours catching turtles off the dock. Our daughter and her two friends frolicked in the water at the sandy area next to the boat launch.
The day we rented boats, playing won out over fishing. At one point, our friend dropped off the life jacket-clad kids mid-lake and let them swim to the far shore. Their laughs and giggles could be heard across the lake. Their smiles made for some of the best photos from the trip.
Oh sure, we went fishing, but catching fish became secondary when we saw a pair of bald eagles perched on a lakeshore tree. I cut the engine and we sat and watched the eagles for 10 minutes. Even after they took off, we watched as they wheeled about each other above the lake.
When we got down to business, there were plenty of fish to catch. Small rainbow trout were easily caught by dock-bound beginners; larger trout were the allure for those in boats. Rare was the time that a boat came back at dusk without someone heading to the fish cleaning station.
Beyond the fishing, swimming and general fun, I also discovered a sense of community at the resort. Folks gathered around the communal fire pit each night, making treats, sharing stories. Folks sitting outside their cabins always inquired about your luck if you walked past carrying your fishing rods. The restaurant was the meeting place each night for our group of three families, adults and kids indulging in desserts that were large and tasty.
This is a tough economy for resorts. A “for sale” sign was hung on Black Beach Resort while we were there. Brian Anderson said his visitor numbers are steady, but people aren’t staying as long or visiting the restaurant as much.
Still, they offer more amenities than a standard park campground. For a few days, the resort can be your home away from home, complete with friendly neighbors.
Sun Cove Resort
On Wannacut Lake, about 15 minutes southwest of Oroville, this resort features 12 cabins, as well as full-service RV sites and tent sites. It also has a small restaurant and lounge; swimming pool; store and boat rentals. 509-476-2223
Osoyoos Lake Veterans Memorial Park
This 47-acre former state park is now run by the city of Oroville. It sits at the south end of 14-mile-long Osoyoss Lake. This is the place for folks who prefer warm water for swimming – or who like their watery fun on the fast side, because this is where you will find the water ski and personal watercraft crowd. It features 86 campsites, large grassy areas for playing games, a nice beach and two boat ramps. If you’re headed there on a weekend, try to reserve a campsite ($14-$28). Oroville itself has a large grocery store and a few other amenities such as espresso stands and wifi. www.parks.wa.gov
Just two miles north of the U.S.-Canada border from Oroville, this town of about 5,000 people is a good destination if you want more options for fun and dining. The town likes to tout Osoyoos Lake, which typically reaches 75 degrees in the summer, as the warmest in Canada. There are a number of lakeside parks, including Cottonwood Park in town and Haynes Point Provincial Park. Because it is a warm-weather destination for Canadians, the town has a resort-town feel and a number of high-end restaurants and wineries. A good place to stop first is the British Columbia Visitor Centre at the intersection of Highways 3 and 97. www.hellobc.com/en-CA/RegionsCities/Osoyoos.htm
Black Beach Resort
This resort, about 10 minutes north of Republic on the west side of Curlew Lake, has more than 100 RV sites, 16 cabins and nearly a dozen tent sites, as well as a small stores; 509-775-3989, blackbeachresort.tripod.com/ index.html
Curlew Lake State Park
While not large, this well-maintained park is a good choice for people wanting to spend a few days fishing and playing in the area. Large trees provide some good shade for many of the 80 campsites ($14-$28). Tent campers should consider the site at the south end of the park, including several right on the lake. Two docks offer good spots for fishing, and there are two no-fee boat ramps. There is a roped off swimming area. There are two miles of trails. The park is eight miles north of town on state Route 21. www.parks.wa.gov
There are couple of other resorts on the shores of Curlew Lake. Tiffany’s Resort offers cabins and RV sites at the north end of the lake; 509-775-3152, www.tiffanysresort.com. Fisherman’s Cove Resort on the east side the lake also has cabins and RV sites; 888-567-2955, Ext. 8. fishermanscove.us/republic.htm