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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Merrill Lake, Washington"
Includes ... Merrill Lake ...
Image, 2015, Merrill Lake, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Merrill Lake, Washington. Image taken July 1, 2015.


Merrill Lake ...
Merrill Lake is located in Cowlitz County, has an area of 283.4 acres and an elevation of 1,524 feet (source: Washington DNR, 2018). The lake is located in T7N R4E. The Kalama River is located 1.5 miles to the northwest and the Lewis River is located two miles to the south. Ten miles northeast of Merrill Lake is Mount St. Helens.

Merrill Lake was created around 1,900 years ago when lava flowing from the flanks of Mount St. Helens blocked a side channel of the Kalama River. This event, called the Cave Basalt Flow, also created lava tubes such as nearby Ape Cave. Merrill Lake drains north into the Kalama River through lava tubes.


Merrill Lake Conservation Area ...
"This 114-acre site consists of a forest cover of mixed conifers and hardwoods along a lake at the 1,550-foot elevation. Merrill Lake NRCA is prime habitat for birds of prey, including osprey and bald eagles, and is also home to waterfowl such as bufflehead, common goldeneye, and hooded merganser. A regionally popular catch-and-release fly fishing spot, Merrill Lake has a boat launch for small craft (non-gasoline powered) and a nine-site campground. Spring through fall camping—on a first-come first-served basis—is mostly walk-in from the main parking area, with a few sites accessible by vehicle."


Source:    Washington State Department of Natural Resources website, "Merrill Lake Conservation Area", 2018.

Early Merrill Lake ...
At one time Merrill Lake was known as "Trout Lake" and "Lake Merrill". Indians called the lake "Qual-i-as".

"Leaving the wagon road on the north fork of the Lewis river which it has followed for 35 miles ... we take the trail and single file clamber over a seemingly exaggerated hill, and descending the other side, emerge upon the shores of Trout lake, since renamed Lake Merrill and called by the Indians Qual-i-as, meaning Trout." ["The Oregon Naturalist", June 1895]

"Merrill, Lake.   A small lake 1 1/2 miles long, near Cougar Post Office, in southeastern Cowlitz County; sometimes called Trout Lake." [Henry Landes, 1917, "A Geographic Dictionary of Washington"]

"Lake Merrill, in the southeastern part of Cowlitz County. Old settlers claim that it was named in 1890 by James McBride and Frank Vandever in honor of Judge McBride's father-in-law. (John Beavers, Cougar, in Names MSS., Letter 201.)" [Edmond S. Meany, 1920, "Origin of Washington Geographic Names"]

"Merrill Lake:   A lake near the headwaters of Kalama River, 2 miles northeast of Lewis River, extreme southeast Cowlitz County. In 1890, the name was applied by James McBride and Frank Vandever for a pioneer family who settled here." [R. Hitchman, 1985, "Washington Geographic Names"]

Views ...

Image, 2015, Merrill Lake, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Merrill Lake, Washington. Image taken July 1, 2015.
Image, 2015, Merrill Lake, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Merrill Lake, Washington. Image taken July 1, 2015.


Merrill Lake, etc.

  • Fishing ...
  • Merrill Lake, 1895 ...
  • Merrill Lake, 1897 ...
  • Views from Merrill Lake ...


Fishing ...
According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (2018), Merrill Lake was stocked with Eastern Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Yellowston Cutthroat in the early 1930s. Brown Trout were introduced in 1987 and catchable Rainbow Trout were stocked in 2018.


Merrill Lake, 1895 ...
"A steamboat ride down the placid Willamette and the broadening Columbia to Woodland on Lewis river is the first and easiest part of a trip to Mt. St. Helens, followed by a stage or horse-back ride, or walk up the valley of the turbulent Lewis river. Leaving the wagon road on the north fork of the Lewis river which it has followed for 35 miles ... we take the trail and single file clamber over a seemingly exaggerated hill, and descending the other side, emerge upon the shores of Trout lake, since renamed Lake Merrill and called by the Indians Qual-i-as, meaning Trout. A truly wonderful sheet of clear water it is, about two miles long by a mile at the widest point. It is hemmed in on all sides with the exception of a gap at the lower end, by a circle of high hills sloping abruptly down to the edge of the lake with their splendid forests of hemlock, spruce and cedar.

A plausible supposition is that in place of this body of water, there existed a very deep canyon and that during an eruption of Mt. St. Helens (10 miles distant) the flow of molten lava formed a dam across the mouth of the canyon, and the small mountain streams contributed to the formation of the lake, which they still continue to replenish. This theory is further strengthened, by the untold depth of its waters, the absence of a visible outlet and the presence of lava about the supposed dam. Excellent fishing may be had here, the trout are beautifully spotted and are marked under the gills with deep red gashes from which they take their name of "cut throat trout".


Source:    "The Oregon Naturalist", 1895, "Mount Saint Helens", Vol.2, No.6, June 1895, Portland, Oregon.



Merrill Lake, 1897 ...
"The approach to the mountain [Mount St. Helens] is by wagon road up the north fork of Lewis river to the foot of the trail to Lake Merrill, around the lake to and across the Kalama river, up the Kalama for a short distance, then toward and by Goat mountain and in a northeasterly direction to what is known as Butte camp, at an elevation of 3,700 feet. From this point horses can be taken to the bench above, but there is no water and but little wood, and Butte camp is the proper place from which to climb the mountain unless you are thoroughly familiar with the very rough country around the base. ...

There are a few small streams flowing into Lake Merrill, but there is no visible outlet. The difference between high and low water is more than thirty feet. The rainfall in autumn and spring and the snowfall in winter are very great, and the fall in the level of the lake at the close of the spring rains is much too great to be accounted for by evaporation. On a very still day during September, 1895, I searched carefully at the north end of the lake and found in the sandy bottom, about fifty yards from the shore, a deep, funnel-shaped hole, evidently the beginning of the outlet. Further to the north and toward the Kalama river, where the lava flowed over the standing trees (the places of the trunks now forming wells in the lava), running water can be heard and with a strong cord and bucket drawn up. Still nearer the Kalama a bold stream breaks out of the lava and flows into the river just below a beautiful fall formed by the Kalama flowing over the edge of the same run of lava that dammed up the waters of Lake Merrill. ... "


Source:    Lieut. Charles P. Elliott, U.S.A., 1897, "Mount St. Helens", IN: National Geographic Magazine, Vol.VIII, July-August, 1897, Nos. 7-8.



Views from Merrill Lake ...

Image, 2015, Yale Lake, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Yale Lake as seen from the road to Merrill Lake, Washington. Image taken July 1, 2015.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, ...
 




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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources:
  • Elliott, Lieut. Charles P., U.S.A., 1897, "Mount St. Helens", IN: National Geographic Magazine, Vol.VIII, July-August, 1897, Nos. 7-8;
  • Hitchman, R., 1985, "Place Names of Washington", Washington Historical Society Press;
  • Landes, H., 1917, "A Geographic Dictionary of Washington", Washington Geological Survey Bulletin No.17, Frank M. Lamborn, Public Printer, Olympia;
  • Meany, E.S., 1920, "Oregin of Washington Geographic Names", IN: Washington Historical Quarterly, Vol.XI, No.1, January 1920;
  • "The Oregon Naturalist", 1895, "Mount Saint Helens", Vol.2, No.6, June 1895, Portland, Oregon;
  • Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website, 2018;
  • Washington Department of Natural Resources brochure "Merrill Lake";


All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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August 2018