Pattison Lake

Railroad bridge across Pattison Lake

August 7, 2019

Yet another beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest! I swapped trucks and headed out to Pattison Lake as soon as I got off work. Dragonfly was already secured to the roof of the Sport Trac, with all my gear loaded in the back seat. It was all ready to go.

Pattison Lake boat launchThis was my first trip to Pattison Lake, which is just south of Long Lake. I had spotted the public boat launch earlier in the day on Google Maps and decided to check it out. The lake doesn’t have a very interesting shape–no islands, sloughs, or hidden coves to explore; just pretty standard lake shoreline, fairly heavily populated by houses. But, it does have a bridge spanning the middle, surrounded by a sea of green lilies. And, the lake was new to me, so definitely worth exploring, at least once.

I pulled into the deserted boat launch and dropped Dragonfly at the ramp. The beach was very narrow, muddy, and weedy, with only about eight feet cleared on each side of the ramp. I could see where people and boats had sunk in the mud. I was glad I had brought Dragonfly. It’s half the weight of Cool Change and much easier to manage in soft, muddy conditions. Plus, it’s easier on my back.

I carefully selected an area with the fewest weeds, got in, and pushed off. The lake seems pretty deep, although it’s hard to tell with the murky, weedy water, but once off shore, I didn’t run into any shallow spots. And, unlike the other lakes I’ve visited in the area–Long Lake, Lake St. Clair, Deep Lake, and American Lake–Pattison was very quiet. No power boats, no kids playing, no adults partying along the shore. The lake was deserted.

I had the whole lake to myself.

Waterway through the lily padsI paddled slowly, following the shoreline as it curved around to the right. A path had been cut through the lily pads, leading to several houses tucked along the shore.

After exploring that area a little bit, I headed out around a small point and spotted a strange little island about thirty feet off shore. The island was grassy, with trees and berries. Blackberries and huckleberries, all growing on the tiny island, barely the size of a tree stump.

I paddled up for a closer look. As I fumbled with my phone, trying to take a photo, Dragonfly and the island collided, pushed into each other by the light breeze.


The island spun slightly.


I poke at it with my paddle.

It was styrofoam!Berry Island

A styrofoam island?!?

Weird! The little “island” was actually a block of styrofoam with vegetation growing out of it. Trees, grass, and berries. The berries were ripe, too! The styrofoam must have been anchored because it didn’t move much, other than spinning slightly.

It was both fascinating and creepy.

After gawking a little longer, I continued my journey along the shoreline. Lots of houses in this area. Some had nicely maintained docks, while others had docks that were in various states of neglect. I love water so much I don’t understand why someone would let their dock and waterfront fall into disrepair. I know if I lived here, my little bit of lakeshore and dock would be well maintained, but to each their own.

Approaching the bridgeAbout a mile from the launch point, the bridge loomed above me. I picked my way through the lilies and weeds and found a cleared path through the water to the other side. The narrow channel was obviously navigable, something that hadn’t been apparent from Google maps.

I tried not to be creeped out as I slowly paddled forward. I don’t know why, but I find paddling under things very creepy. And paddling over things. And floating styrofoam island things. Just things, in general. Things in the water. But, part of my journey is facing my fears and overcoming them, so I put on my big girl panties and focused on the path ahead. There was plenty of room to paddle without tangling with weeds or lilies.

I didn’t look up or at the bridge pillars as I passed underneath.

Sweet! In no time, I was on the other side, paddling my way down the path cut through the lily pads. This side of the lake was more populated than the other. Lots of houses and docks, all pushed up against each other. Again, some waterfronts and docks were well kept, while others not so much. After the bridge, the northern half of the lake.I came across a tree growing out of the side of a dock, which I thought was pretty interesting. The dock was no longer attached to the shore, the connecting pieces having been destroyed through neglect or intention.

Gradually, I became aware of a train in the distance. I didn’t pay much attention to it until I saw it pass over the bridge. That was a railroad bridge! I fumbled for my phone, which I keep stashed in a small dry bag at my side, but I couldn’t get to it in time.

A few minutes later, another train, heading in the same direction (fortunately!). This time, a passenger train. It was only about a half dozen cars long. Again, not enough time to get a photo.

And then another train! I should have kept my phone out, because I missed this photo op, too! Three trains in about 20 minutes, all heading east. I had no idea there were that many trains in this area! I watched as it rumbled across the bridge and the sound faded into the distance.

As I rounded the northern end of the lake, I spotted another kayaker, the first person I’d seen out on the lake. She was heading back to her dock; I said hi as I passed by.

Train crossing the Pattison Lake BridgeA few minutes later, I heard some kids scream and turned toward the bridge again. Three young boys were running as fast as they could across the bridge, just before a fourth train rumbled into view. This time, I was able to get some photos, but not before the engine passed out of view. This train was pulling flat freight cars; not much to see. Fortunately, the kids had not been caught on the bridge. Crossing a heavily trafficked train bridge is probably not a very good idea.

And then a fifth train! I heard it well in advance this time and was prepared. Woohoo! Five trains in about 40 minutes! I got a good photo of the engine as it passed over the bridge.

I spotted a lonely, dilapidated, old shed, just before the bridge, and pulled over to investigate. “No Trespassing” had been spray painted on the front years ago. The faded lettering was barely legible now on the gray, weathered wood.Lonely, old shed. It looked abandoned, surrounded by unkempt trees, overgrown weeds, and tall grass. I wondered about the builder, why it had been built as there were no houses nearby, and what event had caused it to fall out of favor.

I made my way back to the boat launch, this time not so creeped out by the bridge. A couple was there loading their canoe. They must have launched after me as my Sport Trac was the only vehicle in the parking lot when I left.

It took only a few minutes, and Dragonfly was once again loaded on the Sport Trac’s roof, ready for our next adventure.

Pattison Lake requires a Discover Pass and is open from 4:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. The lake has a 5 mph speed limit and is reported to have good fishing. It has two of those vault-style outhouse toilets. Personally, I find those creepy, perhaps because the only time I looked in one, I found it infested with wasps.

Although the lake itself is not particularly interesting, it’s a peaceful place to kayak. It’s lightly used, according to several reviewers on Google, so it appears today’s lack of traffic is not an anomaly. And, it’s big enough to provide several hours of kayaking. I paddled 3.5 miles in the hour I was out and explored only the northern half of the lake.