One of the most frequented recreation destinations in Hood Canal is Lake Cushman. There is always a crowd eager to launch off of Big Rock, Lake Cushman Resort is bustling with activity, and it’s a rare occasion that a visitor can’t spot a fleet of candy-colored canoes and kayaks making quiet ripples in all corners of this pristine reservoir. Lesser known, however, and just as beautiful, is Lake Kokanee (also known as Lower Lake Cushman).
The dammed north fork of the Skokomish River is what feeds these two reservoirs and entices a wealth of wildlife to visit its shores. Keep a sharp eye and you might get a peek of black bear, Douglas squirrels, raccoons, river otter, bobcats, black-tailed deer, and the famed Roosevelt elk—the largest of the remaining four subspecies of elk in North America.
Though the put-in can be a bit elusive, be sure to pay keen attention to signs denoting private land as most of the shoreline belongs to private residences. Find the public access near the dam that’s situated at the southwest edge of the lake. This dam, Cushman Dam No. 2, provides power to the Tacoma Power system and maintains the reservoir as a placid, out-of-the-way kayaker haven.
Though the waterfall (a short-feeling 2mi. round trip) is at its prime in late winter to early summer, the paddle itself is easy and enjoyable year-round. The shoreline is thick with trees draped in old man’s beard (Usnea longissima), enhancing the already-mystical landscape and casting picturesque reflections. This rare lichen can grow up to several feet in length and is a strong indicator species of air pollution.