Saturday, October 29, 2016

Frenchman and Winchester Wasteways-Canals, Grant County, Washington


(Winchester) Frenchman Canal, Lake, and Marshes
 Frenchman Winchester Canal system that leads into and through small lakes/ponds and marshes that are teaming with wildlife such as deer, coyotes, otters, beavers, muskrats, and many species of waterfowl and fish. The canals are a beautiful place to paddle in early summer when the water levels are still up but when the currents are slower. Its about a 30 mile paddling trip from Frenchman Lake to the Potholes Reservoir. During spring runoff is the most dangerous time of the year to paddle/boat these canals. We have supplied the access sites starting at Frenchman Lake (Westernmost access point) passing through Dodson Rd (going east), into the Frenchman Marsh and to Potholes Reservoir. Depending on what time of year you access the canal indicates how fast the currents will be and how big the rapids will be when getting close to the Potholes Reservoir. Being aware of one's skill level and attention to safety is paramount. Locals advise that no canal should be accessed north of I90 as they are dangerous due to all the pipes and very low bridges that cross them. Even the canals/channels south of I90 can potentially be dangerous as show in this picture of a canoe wrapped around a rock in the Frenchman Canal just east of the Potholes State Park. The access sections below give more details about the potential barriers at various areas of the canal. The rapids are popular with locals but again one should check each rapid before entering it to determine if one should portage around it or if one has the skill to navigate through it. Not that there are small bridges and conduits one will have to portage around. When paddling in the Frenchman Canal or when in the Frenchman Lake or Marsh note that these are wildlife habitat areas and one should stay in your watercraft as accessing the land is not normally allowed, unless portaging around a barrier. Also a large part of the land around the Frenchman canal runs through private property, so this is another reason to say in your watercraft. Due to the canal being a navigable waterway makes it legal to paddle even when passing through private lands, however if the canal is low of water and you are walking in the canal then you are on private land. This and other canals in the area receive much of their water via the Grand Coulee Dam system to give the local farms the water they need for their crops. ATTENTION watch out for sweepers (trees & brushes) that could sweep you off your watercraft, or worse trap you in the water. Some of these small trees and bushes have dangerously large thorns that can cause serious bodily harm (called Russian Olive Tree). Also when coming to a fork in the canal, when it doubt go right.


 Access Points and Launches


 1. Frenchman Hills Lake
This lake which is part of the Desert Habitat Management Area is primarily a marsh with a well defined canal/channel. This a beautiful place to paddle and to view wildlife, or to fish. If you are planning on paddling east on the Frenchman Canal to Potholes Res. State Park this is the first access point to do so. Directions: From Exit 164 off of I90 take Dodson Rd. S. South to the intersection of Frenchman Hills Rd W. Turn right/west onto Frenchman Hills Rd W, turn right/north onto the gravel road directly across from Rd D. SW. Follow this gravel road north until it ends in the parking lot. Maps: To view a map click on google.com/maps and type in Rd D SW, Grant County, WA. Or type in GPS coordinates 46.978554, -119.585652
ACCESSIBILITY: PARKING... Gravel, sand, dirt combo parking lot; PATHS/TRAILS... None; RESTROOMS/FACILITIES/SHADE… None. No designated picnic areas or shaded area. No trees; DOCKS/LAUNCHES/PLATFORMS… One wide gravel are that leads into a narrow gravel/dirt/sand/mud launch; DIRECT WATER ACCESS… No access for wheeled mobility devices; TRANSFER SYSTEMS... None; SENSORY... No sensory tactile markers for those with visual and other impairments; CAMPING... No; O.T.H.E.R… Oddities/Barriers: Lots of sand and deep mud during wet times of the year along shoreline; Terrain: Level to about 4% grades; H2O/Water: Water normally murky. Water temperature in the summer can be around 60 to 70 degree. Drinking water not available; Environmental Conditions: High winds and hot summer temperatures; Resources: Food, drinks, and gas at Potholes Reservoir resort area.



2. Dodson Rd. Access Site
This Frenchman Hills Canal access point is on the east side of the Desert Habitat Management Area, just a couple miles east of Frenchman Lake. If you want to paddle west you will need to parking in the access parking lot and portage your watercraft over road and into the canal. The currents can be real strong. Heading north on from this access point, which is the norm takes you to the large Frenchman Marsh, then onto the Potholes Reservoir. About a mile down the road while paddling the canal you will come to a single lake old wood bridge, depending on the water level you will either need to portage around it or paddle under it if clear of all debris. This site has a restroom and large gravel parking lot. From Dodson Rd to the Potholes Res. its about a 25 mile trip. Directions: From Exit 164 off of I90 take Dodson Rd. S. South a few miles where you will see a large parking area with restroom next to the canal, on the left/east side of the road. Maps: To view a map click on google.com/maps and type in Dodson Rd, Grant County, WA. Or type in GPS coordinates 46.972319, -119.5569245
ACCESSIBILITY: PARKING... Gravel, sand, dirt combo parking lot; PATHS/TRAILS... Narrow dirt, sand/ mud combo trails that lead to canal. Not accessible for wheeled mobility devices at all; RESTROOMS/FACILITIES/SHADE… Fully accessible restroom. No designated picnic areas or shaded area. No trees only brush lake trees that give no shade; DOCKS/LAUNCHES/PLATFORMS… Launch off of canal bank; DIRECT WATER ACCESS… No access for wheeled mobility devices; TRANSFER SYSTEMS... None; SENSORY... No sensory tactile markers for those with visual and other impairments; CAMPING... No; O.T.H.E.R… Oddities/Barriers: Lots of sand and deep mud during wet times of the year along shoreline; Terrain: Level to about 5% grades; H2O/Water: Water normally murky. Water temperature in the summer can be around 60 to 70 degree. Drinking water not available; Environmental Conditions: High winds and hot summer temperatures; Resources: Food, drinks, and gas at Potholes Reservoir resort area.



3. Frenchman Marsh
The Frenchman marsh, which is as large marsh area with abundance of waterfowl. Paddling north a little ways you can either head west or east via the Frenchman Canal. Paddling east is best, taking you into the large marsh area. The canal will split a few miles down the canal into two canels, most stay to the left/north canal due to deeper waters, even though both canals will lead you into an open body of water and back into a single canal. Once are in this open water area you can either head back up canal to your put-in site or head down the canal to the Potholes Reservoir. When you are back into on main canal very quickly you will hit your first rapid. Like with all the rapids on this canal you should check them out to determine what is safest you to either portage around it or navigate through it. After another mile or so you will come to a road (Rd C SE) with five conduits going under the road. Do not go through the conduits, but stay to the right/south and get out at the wide gravel area and portage over the road and back into the canal via another wide gravel area on the other side of the road. Once you pass or leave this road access point into the canal there are about 18 rapids (#4 Road C SE Access). Directions: From Exit 164 off of I90 take Dodson Rd. S. South to the intersection of Frenchman Hills Rd W. Turn left/east onto Frenchman Hills Rd W. As you drive this road you will come across two well defined gravel roads on your left/north, turn left on the second gravel road (if you pass a farm on the left/north side of the road you have gone to far). Follow this gravel road to the parking area or type in the GPS coordinates below. Maps: To view a map click on google.com/maps and type in Frenchman Hills Rd W, Grant County, WA. and follow above directions. Or type in GPS coordinates 46.978554, -119.585652
ACCESSIBILITY: PARKING... Gravel, sand, dirt combo parking lot; PATHS/TRAILS... None; RESTROOMS/FACILITIES/SHADE… None. No designated picnic areas or shaded area. One small tree give a little shade; DOCKS/LAUNCHES/PLATFORMS… One wide gravel are that leads into a narrow gravel/dirt/sand/mud launch; DIRECT WATER ACCESS… No access for wheeled mobility devices; TRANSFER SYSTEMS... None; SENSORY... No sensory tactile markers for those with visual and other impairments; CAMPING... No; O.T.H.E.R… Oddities/Barriers: Lots of sand and deep mud during wet times of the year along shoreline; Terrain: Level to about 4% grades; H2O/Water: Water normally murky. Water temperature in the summer can be around 60 to 70 degree. Drinking water not available; Environmental Conditions: High winds and hot summer temperatures; Resources: Food, drinks, and gas at Potholes Reservoir resort area.




4. Gauging Station Road C SE Access
This is a place where one can launch their non-motorized-watercraft into the canal going towards (east) the Potholes Reservoir. This is the section of the canal that is more like a river with whitewater/rapids of class II or better, which includes a set of small water falls. One must know their skill
level and be aware of the dangers of accessing whitewater. Some whitewater kayaks may love the waterfalls, but for canoeists its a real danger. Please check out each rapid before navigating it or again portage around it. The canal go about two miles, which will include about 6 rapids and then will split going around a small island (doesn't matter which way you go even though most prefer going to the left/north side (when in doubt go right), then you are back in a single canal only for short distance (includes to set of rapids) and then will split again into two canals that both lead to the Potholes Reservoir and State Park. The left canal has about 9 sets of rapids, a short water fall, and then enters a wide single canal for a short paddle to the reservoir, and this canal it right next to the State Park. The right/south canal is the one most take if one wants to navigate more rapids, about 12 sets of rapids and two small waterfalls, one of which drops about 10 ft as locals attest, seems not as high to me. This canal of course is the more technically challenging to navigate. Directions: From Exit 164 off of I90 take Dodson Rd. S. South to the intersection of Frenchman Hills Rd W. Turn left/east onto Frenchman Hills Rd W. As you drive this road a few miles it will T into HWY 262/O Sullivan Dam Rd/Rd A SE. Turn left/east onto this road, drive a mile or so more and turn left/north onto Rd C SE and follow this road to the canal. Maps: To view a map click on google.com/maps and type in Frenchman Hills Rd W, Grant County, WA. and follow above directions. Or type in GPS coordinates 46.974187, -119.429111
ACCESSIBILITY: DO NOT launch into this section of the canal if you have any mobility impairment that limits your ability to get out of your watercraft, hike over narrow trails over steep rocks, sand, dirt, mud, and through bushes, etc. PARKING... Gravel, sand, dirt combo parking area along road; PATHS/TRAILS... None; RESTROOMS/FACILITIES/SHADE… None. No designated picnic areas or shaded area. No trees; DOCKS/LAUNCHES/PLATFORMS… Wide gravel areas that leads to gravel/sand launch area; DIRECT WATER ACCESS… No access for wheeled mobility devices. Do Not Access this part of the canal; TRANSFER SYSTEMS... None; SENSORY... No sensory tactile markers for those with visual and other impairments; CAMPING... No; O.T.H.E.R… Oddities/Barriers: Lots of sand and deep mud during wet times of the year along shoreline; Terrain: Level to about 5% grades; H2O/Water: Water normally murky. Water temperature in the summer can be around 60 to 70 degree. Drinking water not available; Environmental Conditions: High winds and hot summer temperatures; Resources: Food, drinks, and gas at Potholes Reservoir resort area.



5. Potholes State Park
This access site is located in the beautiful Potholes State Park that includes tent and RV campsites with hookups, drinking water, restrooms, playground, and boat launch area.  This site is used as a take-out site for non-motorized-watercraft after navigating the Frenchman Canal. One can also put-in at this site to paddle a up short distance via the two split canals of the Frenchmen Canal to where there are rapids. If you paddle east you will of course enter the Potholes Reservoir. This is a nice site to launch from to get away from the busy boat launch with all the powerboats. Not that high end multihull sailors love the Potholes Reservoir, however for paddlers these conditions are less than ideal. So beware of high winds, particularly during the summer. Each canal  Directions: From Exit 164 off of I90 take Dodson Rd. S. South to the intersection of Frenchman Hills Rd W. Turn left/east onto Frenchman Hills Rd W. As you drive this road a few miles it will T into HWY 262/O Sullivan Dam Rd/Rd A SE. Turn left/east onto this road, drive a few mile or so more to the Potholes State Park entrance sign. Must pay to enter. Follow park official map to non-motorized put-in/take-out site. Maps: To view a map click on google.com/maps and type in Potholes State Park, Grant County, WA. Or type in GPS coordinates 46.982850, -119.355366
ACCESSIBILITY: PARKING... Gravel and paved parking areas; PATHS/TRAILS... Wide well maintained lawns used as way to get to the canal. Other areas have wide to narrow dirt/sand trails not considered accessible to wheeled mobility devices; RESTROOMS/FACILITIES/SHADE… Fully accessible restrooms. Covered picnic areas via structures and lots of trees; DOCKS/LAUNCHES/PLATFORMS… No docks are platforms at canal launch areas. There is one dock at the parks double 4 lane boat launch; DIRECT WATER ACCESS… No accessible paved trail/path for wheeled mobility devices but one can use the lawn area to get to the water's edge of the canal, or use the boat launch when no powerboats are present; TRANSFER SYSTEMS... None; SENSORY... No sensory tactile markers for those with visual and other impairments; CAMPING... Tent and RV campsites with hookups; O.T.H.E.R… Oddities/Barriers: Lots of sand and deep mud during wet times of the year along shoreline; Terrain: Level to about 5% grades. Level to 2% grade at canal launch site; H2O/Water: Water normally murky. Water temperature in the summer can be around 60 to 70 degree. Drinking water available; Environmental Conditions: High winds and hot summer temperatures; Resources: Food, drinks, and gas at Potholes Reservoir resort area.

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