Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Soap Lake Washington's Healing Waters & Giant Lava Lamp

When I was a kid, growing up in Washington, almost every summer weekend we would take off and go camping. Birch Bay State Park, Ocean Shores State Park, Copalis, Sun Lakes State Park and Soap Lake.

Those are all my favorite places we'd go to in my pre-teen years.

Soap Lake is the name of the town and the lake. This was a favorite place to go because it was one of my mom's fond memories of when she was a kid. Her grandpa, he being my great-grandpa would take my mom on trips to Soap Lake.

Back then, which would have been during the Great Depression, before WWII, people went to one of Soap Lake's sanitariums, hotels and bath houses to partake of the Healing Waters of Soap Lake.

For a time, early in the Great Depression, a drought dried up much of Soap Lake. Then when Grand Coulee Dam began til fill Lake Roosevelt, irrigation brought water to the Washington desert. So much so that Soap Lake's mineral content began to be diluted. By the end of the 1950s wells and pumps had saved Soap Lake.

As a kid I can remember being particularly interested in my mom's tale of a nudist camp on the far side of the lake. At that time that seemed a shocking thing to me. In 2009, not so much. Come to think of it, I have been in Soap Lake sans swimsuit. The mineral/soap thick water can quickly cause an abrasion where swimsuit material meets skin. Au naturel is much more comfortable

To partake of Soap Lake you go out in the water, swim or just stand in it. Then scoop up some of the mineral rich Soap Lake mud, cover yourself with it, and then go back to the beach to dry the mud in the sun, taking in its curative powers. I was always amused, as a kid, watching people do this. I do not recollect if I ever took a mud treatment myself.

After the 1940s the number of people seeking the Healing Waters of Soap Lake diminished. But the town lived on and its life as a tourist destination lives on, not quite like in its heyday, when people came from all over the country for Soap Lake's legendary curative powers.

In 2002 the World's Largest Lava Lamp was added to Soap Lake as a tourist attraction. I can't remember if the Soap Lake/Grand Coulee area is a volcano zone where you find pumice and obsidian, so I'm not quite getting the Lava Lamp connection. It looks cool though.

Soap Lake is at the lower end of the Grand Coulee, which is abut a mile and a half wide, with steep basalt cliffs rising as high as 900 feet on either side. Soap Lake is in a desert climate with an average of 9 inches of rain a year. And an average 320 sunny days annual. So, you can see why the lakes of the Grand Coulee are a popular tourist destination for Washingtonians on the west side of the Cascades.

Getting to Soap Lake is an easy drive from Seattle or Spokane, it's only 20 miles north of Interstate 90 on Highway 17.


Anonymous said...

Where in the area did you go sans swimsuit? Is there a specific area where nudity is tolerated around the lake?

Durango Northwest said...

I don't believe I mentioned going in Soap Lake sans swimsuit. I mentioned a nudist camp back when my mom was a kid. However, I have skinnydipped in Soap Lake. Years ago. It is fairly easy to get in the water and remove the suit. I don't remember if there are sticks in the water, ala Salt Lake, upon which to hang the suit, or not. Being sans swimsuit cuts down on the rash/chafing that that soapy water can cause.

Anonymous said...

Well, I am a current resident of beautiful Soap Lake and do not support the "Proposed" Lava Lamp, it's not here yet and I hope it never gets here...but come enjoy the healing waters, geological and curtural things the city has to offer.

Anonymous said...

Nudity in the lake would be most practical but too bad our social attitudes today would never allow for it.

Still if the city of Soap Lake would relax its nudity laws, it's non sexualized, nudity laws perhaps that would draw in visitors.

Perhaps just make one park near the lake clothing optional use. Have the police monitor for lewd activity but apart from that just let people go totally naked. Just the mere sight of nudity doesn't have to be lewd. Just seeing naked people doesn't have to be considered wrong or bad or anything like that.

It just makes sense not to wear clothes to get muddy. It just makes it easier to changing in and out of clothes and to wash the mud off.

Nude areas seem to work well in Oregon (they have two official nude beaches). I think it would take strong enforcement upfront but then I think people will start behaving responsibly.

And I do think it would attract much more than some stupid Lava Lamp. It would attract the nudist crowd from throughout the United States and Canada, and they are for the most part very responsible, decent, people with some disposable income that they use on such pursuits.