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Banks Lake in Washington

Trip Overview

For the Spokanite paddler, not many places can compare to Banks Lake for its ready accessibility, rugged beauty, and proximity to home. As a touring kayak destination, many coves, private beaches, and hidden locations add an element of discovery to an otherwise well known lake.

Our trip began by finding a suitable beach for launching at Steamboat Rock state park, a perennial favorite of ours for early spring hiking in the wildflowers. Wide sandy beaches coupled with potable water, bathrooms and a nice camping/parking area are great conveniences. Don't forget your $5 for parking fees, which are well spent. Hiking trails abound as well if you feel you need to tire the legs out before your paddling departure.

My wife and I decided to paddle the long point jutting off the NW side of the lake as it has many long inlets and private beaches. This area is very geologically interesting as it mixes columnar basalt cliffs surrounding with intricate granite islands and peninsulas. We dealt with a 5 knot following wind departing, which was a pleasant assistant on what would be a 5 hour, 12 mile round trip. Seeing some of the shallow islands and the barely submerged rocks elicits a desire to fish for bass, which this lake is notorious for. Crossing an open stretch proves a challenge when the winds increase, as this lake is similar in nature to Rock Lake and Bonnie Lake in how it draws the wind between the walls.

A short break at a small secluded beach provided a very private, sheltered lunch stay. This area is heavily used by power boaters in the summer, so it is common to see the typical beer can/plastic bag trash. Due to increasing winds and a 2 mile open water crossing to get behind Steamboat Rock, we made way soon after finishing lunch, passing on the hiking opportunities and rock scrambling.

On our return trip the winds had reached a sustained 10-15 kts, creating 1-3ft swells and some whitecapping. As such, I have advised a moderate rating, although staying in protected waters or going on a windless day this is easily a novice paddler's paradise. Rough water was the order of the day with frequent skirt-wetting waves and winds blowing us off course if too much skeg was used. Once back in the protection of Steamboat Rock, we took in the sights of the monolith, watched the bass tournament unfold, and lazed back into shallower waters. A sand jetty and some sand bars between islands can cause some strife, and should be watched for to prevent beaching.

A fantastic trip, highly recommended.


Potable water, bathrooms, campsites, the works are available.


$5 parking/day use fee.


Hwy 2 from Spokane west. Turn right at the Grand Coulee sign, Hwy 174. Follow 174 to Grand Coulee, turning left at the stop sign. This is Hwy 155, follow it to the Steamboat Rock state park turnoff to the right, its very obvious. Take the park road until it terminates at the boat launch.


WA Atlas and Gazetteer.
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip