By CASEY MCCARTHY
MOSES LAKE — A pair of hiking areas just south of Potholes Reservoir provide opportunities to explore the geological history of Central Washington area, as well as a chance to see some of the birds and wildlife that still call it home.
Inside the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, the landscape is scattered with varying terrain of rock, canyons, plateaus, lakes, marshes, and grasslands. The Reserve, and its trails and lakes, have all been carved and molded by floods, glaciers, and lava over vast spans of time.
Trails and gravel roads help patrons traverse the area and explore all the area has to offer. The Goose Lake Plateau Trail offers hikers the chance to explore one of the many wider open areas alongside Goose Lake, one of the many bodies of water scattered around the area.
The roundtrip hike around the entire plateau is around seven miles, according to the Washington Trails Association, with an elevation gain of about 100 feet. Pants or hiking boots are beneficial as parts of the hike are heavily scattered with sagebrush and tall grasses, while also be sure to bring plenty of water as the dry, arid climate can be draining in the summer months.
Not far from Upper Goose Lake, another trio of trails allow for visitors to explore a different portion of the Reserve. The Frog Lake, Crab Creek, and Marsh Loop Trails all offer different trips that allow for vantage points alongside the creek bed and marshes. The trails offer hiking trips, spanning from one hour up to 2-3, depending on the route taken. Visitors are rewarded a chance to view some of the basalt formations the area is well known for, as well as some of the rich environments that bring numerous migratory birds to the area each year.
Sagebrush, cheatgrass, and other lush vegetation provide homes to a number of wildlife that can be seen from up close, or high above, depending on the route taken. Northern pacific rattlesnakes also call the area home, while the snakes will avoid human visitors unless provoked. Hikers and birdwatchers who visit the area should remain aware while traversing the trails, and leave the animals alone if encountered.
A Discover Pass is required for vehicles entering to explore some areas of the Reserve, with all the trails open between March and October, with some closing as to not disturb the influx of migratory birds that arrive each year.