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  Washington Kayak Club
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Lake Crescent: Winter Kayaking

Published on 12/8/2014
By Brenna McVety

 The Route


The Trip

Lake Crescent is a deep, glacially created lake known for its brilliant blue, clear water.  It is located in the Olympic National Park, approximately 17 miles west of Port Angeles, Washington on Route 101.  It is about a 2 1/2- 3 hour drive from Seattle, including a scenic ride on the Bainbridge ferry.  This is a great winter paddle to consider, when conditions at the coast become too rough.
I stayed at Lake Crescent Lodge and paddled the lake the first week of December.  The lodge is open until January 1.  However it is still possible to park and launch from the lodge, after it closes for the season.  The holiday decorations, warm fire, and even warmer drinks served in the lodge make it a welcome retreat after an icy cold paddle.  If you can make it here before the lodge closes for the season, I highly recommend it.
We enjoyed a frosty paddle after the first winter snow.  Temperatures were in the mid-20's.  Windy conditions quickly created 1+ foot chop on the lake.  Our crossings were dicey in a rented plastic kayak without spray skirts in 15 to 20+ knots of wind. My trip reports are often about what not to do.  This trip should be added to that list.  Twelve miles of fetch quickly created whitecaps as the wind howled down the lake.  But we had a beautiful sunny day, a strong desire to be on the water, warm clothes, and the skills necessary to quickly re-enter if the kayak capsized mid-lake in 600 feet of ice cold water.  
Do properly gear up for this trip.  Don't underestimate winter conditions on the lake.  Check your weather.  And be prepared to be creative with your take-outs.  We were blown into a little cove, scrambled ashore, and parked the kayak in a tree until conditions settled and hands warmed.  It worked.
Aside from not capsizing in frigid conditions, highlights of the trip included:

- Exploring an eerie, abandoned, icicle-filled train tunnel directly across the lake from Lake Crescent Lodge
- Paddling out to Devil's Punchbowl - approx. 1 1/2 miles east of Lake Crescent Lodge on the north side of lake
- Hiking through snow covered ferns, past mossy firs and cedars, out to an icy Marymere Falls 
- Enjoying excellent food in a cozy atmosphere at Lake Crescent Lodge
- Watching the sunset fade to purple over the lake
If you are looking for a winter paddle in a beautiful semi-protected setting, you will not be disappointed.  Great trip.


Lake Crescent
Photo credit to Brenna McVety
View more images:

Know Before You Go 

Trip Difficulty Rating:  SK I - II
Distance:  Lake is 12 NM long.  Average depth is 300 feet.  Believed to be 1000+ feet deep in areas.
Boat Launch Sites:  Boat launch sites are located at east and west ends of lake.  Can also launch from Lake Crescent Lodge. See NPS map for detail. 
Maps:     NPS Map of Lake Crescent
Current Weather Conditions:  National Weather Service                   Lake Crescent Live Webcam
 Additional Notes:
 Long fetch quickly creates whitecaps when wind picks up.  Lake quickly becomes choppy.

 Useful Links


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