Bonnie Lake in Washington

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

Bonnie Lake is a narrow body of water located in one of the basalt canyons typical of the Eastern Washington Area. There are no roads that lead into the lake, and getting there takes about a one mile paddle up Rock Creek from the unofficial put in at the bridge. The creek is very shallow and narrow and twists and turns through the canyon known as Hole in the Ground. Be sure to keep an eye out for the natural rock bridge as well as a huge beaver dam where the lake begins to drain into the creek. There are a few small motor boats that venture into the lake, but very few because of the steep put in and the low water in the creek. There have been many times that I have paddled the lake and been the only person around. The creek is navigable all year, but when the water is low it may be necessary to portage in a few spots. Be aware though that the land along the creek is private land. Be respectful and watch out for the cows.

The lake is about four miles in length. The only public land on the lake consists of an island and a square mile of land surrounding it that is owned by the BLM. The island is small but is covered with large rocks to climb over and crevasses to explore. There are a few places that are flat enough to put up a tent for an overnight stay. Beware though, the soil is not deep enough for digging a latrine (less than 2 inches in most places) and sometimes folks are just too lazy to deal with their own stuff in an appropriate manner. There is wild currant growing all over the island as well as poison ivy. Across the lake to the north is a spit of land that is also owned by the BLM which is much nicer to camp on, but it lacks that island feeling. Rock Creek drains into the lake on the northern end and there is a wonderful waterfall just up the creek from the lake. There is a trail that can be found that will take you there.

Even though you need to watch your step on the island at times, and rolling around in the bushes will get you poison ivy, and the wind can sometimes be a challenge, the lake is a perfect get away just outside of the cities of Spokane and Cheney. Wildlife is abundant. On a recent trip there, I saw deer, loons, a couple of hawks, a balk eagle perched in a tree, numerous muskrat in the creek, a blue tongue skink on the island, a family of raccoons climbing around on the rocks along the shore, and a buzzard on a rock eating one of the biggest catfish I have seen outside of the Mississippi River.

In spring and summer when the water is not too low, it is possible to navigate downstream (southwest) from the bridge. The creek is not as winding and there is a small waterfall in one place. It is possible to get all the way down to Rock Lake with some effort and caution. This is a great part of the creek to explore.

I rate this as moderate only because of wind that can pop up in the afternoon.


There are no accomodations. Pack it in and pack it out!!!


At this time, the BLM is allowing camping on the one mile square of their land, including the island. Camping at this time is free and does not require a permit. Even though there are sometimes fire rings, the BLM has outlawed fires on the island and their other land. Trees on the island still show charring from a camper's fire that got out of control.


From the south end of Cheney, Washington turn onto the Cheney-Plaza road. After about 15 miles the road splits into Rock Lake Road going forward and the Cheney-Plaza Road going left. Continue on Rock Lake Road and turn left on Belsby Road. Continue on Belsby Road for about four miles. The road drops down into the canyon and the creek can be seen at the bottom. The put in is at the far end of the bridge on the right side. The landowner asked that people park on the wide turn at the bottom of the hill before the bridge because they have big trucks that pull out of the fields. Parked cars have blocked them in at times. Unload your gear at the bridge and park at the turn.


USGS 7.5 min Chapman Lake and Pine City quads. The northern end of Rock Lake is located on the Rock Lake quad.

Trip Details

  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water

Trip Location