Washington’s central high desert region is known as the Channeled Scablands. This is where Ice Age floods from Glacial Lake Missoula scoured the region into a maze-like patchwork of canyons, coulees, buttes, and basins. It is estimated that the wall of water that raced across the area was hundreds of feet high, leaving behind such a dramatic landscape that it has been designated one of Washington’s seven wonders. Situated in the largest of these canyons, the 60-mile-long Grand Coulee, a 600-acre butte of volcanic columnar basalt rises 800 feet above Banks Lake. Named Steamboat Rock for its resemblance to a grounded sternwheel boat, the towering formation stands in stark contrast to deep blue lake surrounding it. Located near the base of the rock on its east side, and along the adjacent canyon wall Steamboat Rock State Park preserves this unique landscape for visitors and outdoor lovers to enjoy and explore the rock, lake and surrounding canyon country.
The state park at Steamboat Rock, approximately 100 miles west of Spokane, features two camp areas offering 162 for parking RVs and pitching tents. Most of these sites offer full hookups, but there are also standard sites for tent campers; most sites are open and grassy, with little shade. Parking pads are mostly back-in, with only a limited number of pull-through, and can accommodate vehicles/trailers up to 50 feet. Sites are all equipped with picnic tables and fire rings, and have access to drinking water, flush restrooms, and showers; many sites and facilities are ADA accessible. There are also 12 boat-in sites on the north end of the peninsula, and 80 primitive sites at Jones Bay and Osborn Bay. These locations have vault toilets only, and no water. The park’s seasonal concessionaire carries groceries, firewood, ice, and fishing supplies. The park is open year-round, but water is turned off in the winter. Reservations are accepted for camping from May 15 to Sept. 15, otherwise sites are first-come, first-served. Campsites are $12–$50/night.
The main attraction at Steamboat Rock State Park is, obviously, Steamboat Rock. From the camp area, a 1-mile hiking trail climbs 700 feet to the top of the plateau. From the junction at the top, several more miles of trails branch out across the plateau and offer sweeping views over Banks Lake and the Grand Coulee. Watch for wild turkeys, deer, bobcats, coyotes, hawks and eagles. For more hiking, head for nearby Northrup Canyon, where a 3-mile (one way) trail heads up a colorful side canyon to an old homestead site, then beyond to Northrup Lake. To beat the summer heat, just spend your time at Banks Lake. The day-use area in the park offers sunning and swimming at a sandy beach, and there are sports courts and a kids playground. Several boat launches are available for taking to the lake for paddling, water skiing and fishing for whitefish, walleye, rainbow trout and Kokanee. For some free evening entertainment, just head 12 miles north to the Grand Coulee Dam and catch the nightly laser light show.