Clark County has a wealth of outdoor recreation areas that are breathtaking places. Are you an outdoor action-seeker? Look no further than Battle Ground Lake State Park. Three miles northeast of Battle Ground in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Battle Ground Lake transports you into a lush forest far away from city noise.
“It is really quiet and peaceful in the mornings,” says Meryl Lassen, communications consultant with Washington State Parks Recreation Commission, “and you might have the trails to yourself when the sun rises.”
The history of Battle Ground Lake shines in its character today. Legend has it that a monster once lived in the lake. His name was Oluk. “This was before we got here, of course,” says Pat Jollota, Clark County historian, veteran city council member, and author of four books. “Supposedly, Oluk demanded a fresh young woman for dinner occasionally.”
Good nutrition aside, Jollota adds jovially that you can swim safely in the lake today, because the monster is “dead now” and “down in there.”
The elusive monster is only part of Battle Ground Lake’s historical charm. According to historical information in “Battle Ground…In And Around” by Louise McKay Allworth Tucker, in 1902, the lake, undeveloped, was dubbed Battle Ground Crater Lake. Later, the lake was confused with Oregon’s Crater Lake, and adorned with several names after that, including Lake Oluk and Serpent Lake. In 1911, a land development company coined the lagoon Shadow Lake on its promotional map. Tucker explains in her book that, although unproven, a persistent legend claims Battle Ground Lake is bottomless.
There are also many fond memories of the lake as a privately-owned resort in the 1900s. Henry Blystone – according to Tucker’s book – first built a boathouse and dressing shelter for swimmers in 1916 on the southeast side of the lake. This started a tradition that continues today of family enjoying the lake grounds for camping, boating, and picnicking. Blystone built the first recreational facility north of the boathouse complete with a swim tank and the first high dive and slide. Other structures included a pool hall, a popular dance hall, bathhouse, and a store that sold canned goods and lunches to campers and fishermen. A few cabins at the lake could be rented too (like today), and many people basked in the serene lake setting for day-use fun. Lassen adds that Battle Ground Lake has been a fishing destination for 50 years.
The state purchased the land in the late 1960s to develop it into the beautiful park it is now.
Battle Ground Lake, Today
Today, people come from all over Southwest Washington, Portland, and the coast to visit the 280-acre Battle Ground Lake State Park. “The park is great for kids,” says Lassen. “There is a playground with new equipment, and kids can run around and play for hours.”
The Park has 35 standard campsites, 6 partial-hookups sites for RVs, and 15 primitive sites (no cars allowed) that require campers to hike up one-half mile from the parking lot. “I call these beginning backpacking sites,” says Lassen. “You can do these to get the feel of what it’s like to do a trail walk with a heavier pack.” There are two primitive equestrian sites, four cabins, one RV dump station, two restrooms and four showers.
The park features 10 miles of hiking trails, and five miles of biking and horse trails. Some of the trails are mixed use so bikers and walkers must yield to horses. “For a smaller park, it’s surprisingly rich in trails,” says Lassen. “Trails circle the lake almost in concentric circles, and then you get into wooded trails.”
Non-hiking activities include non-motorized boating, swimming, scuba diving, badminton, baseball, horseshoe pits, softball, and more. There are picnic tables and kitchen shelters. One shelter for reservation has electricity and caps at 120 people.
“There is a whole menu of things to do here, and you get something for everyone in the family,” says Lassen, “but the centerpiece is the lake – a 100,000-year-old volcano caldera.” A caldera is a basin that forms when the cone of a volcano collapses.
“The lake is mysterious looking,” says Jollota. “It’s different than all the other lakes around because of its volcanic origin, and it’s very deep.” The lake is ripe for fishing and stocked with trout for fishing enthusiasts today. You do need a fishing license to fish.
“The shallow area is roped off so kids can float around,” says Lassen, “and there is a concession stand (Battle Ground Lake Store) where you can rent paddle boards and kayaks.”
“You are close to services here,” says Lassen spiritedly. “You are not so remote you can’t go to a restaurant and get a latte in the morning. Some parks you are miles from anything. You feel far away at Battle Ground Lake, but you aren’t – it is a very neat park and it’s going strong – it has a loyal fan club.”
To plan your next trip, visit the Battle Ground Lake State Park website.