As we pulled into the pristine campground at Bridgeport State Park in north central Washington, we felt our bodies relax. Lovely green camping sites awaited us with cooling breezes from Rufus Woods Lake. It was a warm day and the shade from trees offered welcome relief.
Rufus Woods Lake, a reservoir created by the construction of Chief Joseph Dam across the Columbia River in 1952, is popular for its swimming and fishing. Two boat ramps and 240 feet of dock provide easy entry into the water, with boat moorage and fishing from the docks. The lake is known for its world-class rainbow trout, with the largest reported to date of 25.4 pounds. Catches of four- to five-pound rainbows are common. Brown trout, silvers, walleyes and perch are also caught.
The 748-acre park along the lake was created as part of a cooperative agreement between Washington State Parks and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
We loved the view from our campsite across the lake to fruit orchards and wheat fields dispersed among the wild grasses and sage. In the background we heard the song of the meadowlark and the screech of Cooper hawks. The flash of goldfinches gathering seeds caught our eye. Another popular bird in the area, the osprey, competed with the fishermen for their supper.
Available on a first-come, first-served basis, the spacious 20 utility sites and 14 standard sites in the campground have picnic tables and fire pits. A large day area is available for picnicking and swimming. Reservations may be made for the nicely arranged group camp, which accommodates 20 to 72 people. Restrooms with showers are conveniently located, and a trailer dump station is available.
The lovely nine-hole Lake Wood Golf Course is within easy walking distance from the campsites. Besides the gentle hikes around the park, enthusiastic walkers will enjoy the walking trail managed by the Army Corps of Engineers that starts near the entrance to the park and extends along the waterfront to the Army Corps orientation area.
Nearby, the town of Bridgeport, known as “Gateway to the Mighty Columbia River,” has an interesting history. Founded in 1889 and first known as Westfield, it got its start as a mining town. As the gold ran out, people turned to agriculture to provide a living. Horses and cattle thrived on the wild bunch grasses, and soon fruit production began to take root. The fertile plateaus above the town supported wheat fields, which in turn supplied a flourmill.
The town was renamed Bridgeport in 1892 after a development company from Bridgeport, Connecticut, purchased the town site for $60,000. The town boomed with a business district boasting of a bank, a flourmill and sawmill, general stores, two butcher shops, a ferry operation and the largest hotel between Seattle and Spokane.
Hard times fell on Bridgeport during the Depression, and much of the commercial district disappeared. Fortune turned again for Bridgeport in 1949 when construction began on Chief Joseph Dam, one mile east of the city.
Chief Joseph Dam, the second largest hydropower producer in the United States, generates in excess of $200 million in power annually, or enough to supply the electrical needs of more than 1.5 million people. The dam features a powerhouse one-half mile in length and offers summer tours.
Whether you are looking for interesting side trips, great fishing, or just lounging around, Bridgeport State Park makes a wonderful year-round destination. For information and group camp reservations, call the park at (509) 686-7231. For toll-free reservations for individual sites, call (888) 226-7688 or go online to www.parks.wa.gov.
Writer Mary E. Trimble and her husband, Bruce, live in Camano Island, Washington.
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