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.