We finally got a chance to kayak on Lake Quinault. I've hauled my kayak out there before in the off-season, only to learn that the Quinault Tribe only permits boating of any kind on the lake between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This does make Lake Quinault probably the most serene and undisturbed large lake in the state in the off-season.
We launched from the Willaby Creek Campground on the South Shore Road near highway 101. The campground has a day use area with free parking, picnic tables, a beach, and a boat launch.
Our route took us along the south shore, passed the Lake Quinault Lodge, passed the Rain Forest Resort Village, and then to find the mouth of the Upper Quinault River. The river mouth turned out to be quite a ways from the Rain Forest Resort and the last sign of civilization. We ended up about as far from Willaby Creek as you could get.
I had observed just the week before from the mountain road that takes you passed Higley Peak that the river breaks up into several channels and forms a river delta. We stopped at the first channel we came to - the southernmost. Far before the river entrance we hit a bank of mud that extends 100 feet out into the lake. The water here was maybe four inches deep - not enough for our double kayak with two people. A single kayak should have been able to navigate up the river. In clambering through the mud to reach the bank, I found myself sinking a foot or two here and there, but generally the area seemed to be safe.
We walked a bit up the river. There was no very firm ground to walk on anywhere - just mud or very crumbly sand. We noticed the tracks of a deer in the mud. Lots of birds were active. It was a pretty spot with the forest growing along the river banks, the lake behind, and the mountains above.
We didn't stay long, since in the meantime, the wind had picked up and was blowing strongly against us. We set a course directly across the middle of the lake towards the campground. It would probably have been safer to follow along the shore and try to avoid the wind. Out in the middle of the lake we caught a few waves that broke over the kayak and dumped a little water inside. If the wind had picked up any more, I would have steered us for the nearest shore. However, passed the middle of the lake, the waves were not so active. We were sitting in an inch or two of water by the time we reached the campground.
by Bob Kelly