Exploring Nature: Bear Lake

Located directly off  Highway 2 between Riverside and Chattaroy, Bear Lake Regional Park is ready for you when you’re yearning to get away from civilization and enjoy the natural beauty of a lake and woods.

While there are a handful of different hiking routes, the most popular is the paved loop that circles the entire lake and is a little over a mile long. In the springtime, small sections of path flood, causing short detours up the side of a hill, but in the summer and fall the paths typically stay dry and clear. Bikes, strollers, and wheelchairs all work well on this path when it is dry. 

Bear Lake is a popular destination on sunny weekends, with crowds swarming the swimming beach shoreline and the smell of grilled hot dogs hanging in the hot summer air.  If sharing your picnic space with close neighbors isn’t your idea of a good time, don’t give up! Come back on a weekday morning for a completely different atmosphere: a few kayakers peacefully paddling in the center of the lake, scattered dog walkers strolling the lake loop, and the sun journeying up the wide open sky, framing the sparkling water of the still lake.

Details & Amenities

  • Free
  • Open Dawn to Dusk
  • Playground, swimming areas, trails, picnic tables, volleyball nets, 2 picnic shelters, and a dock
  • 166 acre park, spring-fed lake approximately 35 acre surface area
  • No lifeguards, swim at your own risk

Fishing

According to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Bear Lake is a juvenile fishing rules lake: only juveniles under the age of 15, senior anglers, or anglers with a disability who have a designated harvester companion card are allowed to fish from shore or dock. The lake hosts largemouth bass, perch, and rainbow trout, and is usually stocked with rainbow trout annually in April and May.

Swimming

The Spokane Regional Health District has a warning about swimming in the lake, and says playing in the lake can leave one with swimmer’s itch. The itch is “caused by the larva of a small aquatic parasite.  The adult parasite exists in water fowl such as ducks and geese, and is also found in aquatic animals like beaver and muskrat.”

“Within five minutes to an hour of leaving the water, a swimmer may experience a sharp burning and itching of the infected skin areas.  Small reddish pimples, surrounded by zones of redness, appear with 12 hours.” These parasites can itch intensely, and it can take 7-30 days to recover completely.

However, infested lakes can be safely used if swimmers dry off immediately after leaving the water. By removing the water from the skin’s surface, the parasites do not have a chance to burrow in. 

Foraging

In the fall, Bear Lake is a destination for foragers looking for mushrooms, rosehips, and elderberries. While my family is not too excited about the mushrooms, we do use the elderberries to create our own elderberry syrup, which we take by the spoonful year-round to stave off colds and shorten flu symptoms.  Rosehips are high in vitamin C and can be used to make jelly or herbal remedies.

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