Nestled into a depression among the conifer-clad foothills of north-central Washington, you’ll find the Lower Conconully Reservoir, a 550-acre body of glassy, blue water. Conconully State Park sits along the edge of this reservoir, claiming about a mile of the gorgeous shoreline.
The park, sitting about thirty miles east of the Cascades and about one hundred miles west of the Colville National Forest, is a magnificent stop-over point for those traveling in the Pacific Northwest’s high country. However, the park’s splendor and the tranquility, as well as the opportunities for fishing, boating, hiking and more, make Conconully a destination in its own right.
Being just 81 acres in size, and having just 20 partial-hookup RV sites and 40 camping sites, Conconully offers a chance for travelers to escape some of the region’s larger crowds. From a seat in front of your RV, you can look out over the park’s well-kept grounds, taking in the camping area’s stately willows and birches. Or you could look beyond to the verdant, pine and spruce covered hillsides across the lake. Perhaps you’ll spy a white-breasted nuthatch spiraling its way up a trunk, or you might see one of the many white-tailed deer that frequently amble through the park.
Aquatic enthusiasts will have a particularly difficult time finding faults with the Conconully; the reservoir’s shoreline has 80 feet of dock and two boat ramps, and its waters offer world-class fishing opportunities. If there are already a few too many lines in the water, you can head to the nearby Upper Conconully reservoir, also known as Salmon Lake.
Conconully is a bit off the beaten path, and the nearby town has only about 200 residents; but the park is is easily accessible from the south via paved, two-lane county roads, which converge into Conconully Road. Drivers and RVers may find their way to the park by taking routes out of the nearby valley towns of Riverside, Omak or Okanogan. These routes are straightforward and relatively flat – remember, though, that maintenance on county roads is not always as prompt as it is on state or federal highways, so be especially cautious in adverse or wintry conditions.
Since the park is small, it’s hard to get lost or confused once you’re there. Two small campsite loops branch off of one main road; the smaller loop has five RV sites, while the larger loop has the other fifteen RV sites, as well as several standard campsites, restrooms, and the park ranger station. Once you’re parked and set up, traverse short paths or open fields to get anywhere you’d like within the park, be it the shoreline, the playground or the park’s wading pool. Walk or drive just a couple blocks and you’ll find yourself in the center of town, which offers services including a general store, cafes, a gas station, and several other RV parks.
For RV campers, Conconully offers 20 partial-hookup sites, which have electricity and water but do not have sewage. All of the park’s RV sites are reservable. Fifteen RV sites, along with the ranger station and the primitive campsites, are located along the park’s main loop, while remaining five RV sites are located on a smaller loop just to the west. Sites are spacious and are set in grassy fields interspersed with tall willows, birches, spruce and pine. Other amenities include two reservable day-use shelters with electric, 90 picnic tables, and modern restrooms with hot showers.
Both the Lower and Upper Conconully reservoirs offer superb opportunities to eager anglers. Fish from one of the docks, from your rig in the water, or from that perfect sweet-spot along the shoreline. Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and the town of Conconully perform annual stocking of the reservoirs. Fishermen and fisherwomen at the upper reservoir can expect to catch rainbow trout and smallmouth bass, while anglers at the lower reservoir can expect to catch both of these fish, as well as kokanee.
Two boat ramps offer access to the gorgeous Lower Conconully Reservoir. Whether you’re just out for a float, out for a swim, or out to access that prime fishing spot, you can soak up the warm mountain sun and some beautiful views. Make sure you have a proper launch permit before taking to the water, and also remember that, while the launches are open from April to October, low water levels can sometimes make them inaccessible.
Conconully participates in the Washington State Parks system’s Junior Ranger program, and its interpretive staff offer the program to all kids who visit (while the park facilities are open, that is). Children can check out an explorer’s backpack, which offers information about the park’s history, plants and wildlife and also gives advice about how to protect the park and other natural places. Kids who’ve demonstrated what they’ve learned can earn their very own junior ranger badge!
The Conconully reservoir was created in 1910; it was one of the first irrigation projects undertaken by the then-recently founded Bureau of Reclamation. The now tiny town of Conconully used to be the Okanagan county seat, but the area was devastated by a flood in 1945. But the park contains nods to the town’s past, including a replica of the old Okanagan County Courthouse cabin and a historic bell from the original Conconully one-room schoolhouse.
Though the park’s facilities close down in winter, the park itself remains open (albeit with shortened hours). From November to February, Conconully gets an average of over 40 inches of snow. Powder-clad foothills, shoreline and open fields all make for excellent back-country snowshoe terrain. Take advantage of the season’s lighter visitation and carve a path for yourself through the woods and across some freshly-fallen snow. Cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are also available for winter sports enthusiasts.
While you can see plenty of bird and mammal species at the park year round, late fall and winter offer the chance to observe wildlife in a quieter, more tranquil atmosphere. Look out for mule deer, white-tailed deer, coyotes, chickadees, dark-eyed juncos, snow buntings, pine grosbeaks and more. If you’re patient, quiet and lucky, you might get a chance to observe a great grey owl or a great horned owl hunting for the rodents that scurry under the thick blanket of winter snow.