Rock Lake

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 What:  Click here for photos of: Devil's Well geological freak occurrence,  Overview Map:, South of the lake was Rock Lake City;

Most unique feature to the Indians that lived near it: water did not freeze no matter how severe the winter.
The lake will freeze in extreme winters, partially, but much less than other lakes near it.
The indians said that not freezing was because of animals that could be seen moving below the water surface.
Indians were afraid to take a boat into lake they'd had so many problems there.
Temperature: Cold water lake (tried to swim there in extremely hot day, had to jump out asap due to cold)
Length: 7 1/2 miles
Width: 1/2 to 1 mile
Depth: 375 feet in places
Boat launch facilities: only at south end of lake.
Nearby towns: Ewan, Pine City, & St John.
Other lake properties: Water is murky until late summer due to runoff.
Former proposals: Considered making the whole area a part of the state park system back in 50s.
Waterfalls: Numerous ones in spring all at north end of lake.
Fertile soil: Giant vegetables have been grown here.
Geological Features: About a mile north of the north end of the lake is an exposure of mica schist which is a very ancient rock and once formed a hill on the surface before being buried by the lava flows, and now exposed by erosion of the lava. Blowhole tunnels south of the lake. Devil's Well near Hole in the Ground. High cliffs around lake. Castle Rock formation. Rumored Obsidian quarry, but I cannot find this feature though local farmers say they feel they've seen it, they can't remember where.

Canoeing/Kayaking/small row boat or very small power boat handled carefully: I don't think the farmers lease gives exclusive rights over the water so I think it would be okay to paddle south here in the same way as one goes north to Bonnie Lake, but be very careful upon coming up close upon the north end of Rock Lake as there are seasonal waterfalls that you might be going over, so only attempt this if you have boating experience that would allow this. The value of paddling down to the north of Rock Lake is that it is very inaccessible by roads due to farms. Most of the shores of Rock lake are such steep cliffs as to be inaccessible. For that reason they have been little used for resort purposes, and the paddler needs to be aware that strong winds get channeled down the lake so be warned. Also there are lava spears that can rip into your boat, though recently a rock/soil dam at the south of the lake on Rock Creek, has raised the lake level about 3 feet lowering the lava spear concern.

History:


The Henderson House: The oldest structure in the Palouse Area, and Whitman County. Note the upper story window. It was a mansion compared to Kamiakin's teepee one half a mile away.

Cave with moonshine still and obsidian vein: located on west side of lake 1/3 the way up from the south foot. You would either have to boat to this &/or ask farmer permission. I have not had the time to do this one, and am only reporting from an old newspaper article.

It is said about this lake by the Indians and others, that this lake has never given up a single body that it has taken by drowning. Around 1900, the 3 Smith children went ice skating in a terrible storm and all drown. They were recovered and buried in Rock Lake cemetery.

Train Wreck Mystery: (1908-1915) Several boxcars full of new Model T Fords are reported as still at bottom of this lake. Divers have so far not been able to locate them due to lack of exact crash site, but it is probably near Johnson's beach. Here is a real mystery awaiting divers desiring a challenge. Many people have verified that it is down there, though others question this. No one has been able to find it.

Johnson's Beach: On the east side of the lake about half way up is no longer accessible as the road has been closed. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Johnson one fine day and he queried me about where I worked and about my family before giving me permission to go down the hill through his cattle to the swimming place. He has passed on since this. I believe his farm has been sold to the Stevens family. This is very near where the train cars slid into the lake. Some say north some say south.


Chief Ka-mi-akin: (1804-1877) Called the last hero of the Yakima tribe, this great man's father and mother's story is incredible. After losing in his Ahtanum gardens, and land in the Yakima wars, Kamiakin lived for a while in the Tekoa area with other tribes. After leading all the tribes of the Spokane area against Colonel Wright and losing eventually, seeing all his warrior friends that had fought for him buried, he escaped to Canada for 3 years time for people to forget about him. He then returned to the Kamiakin Crossing area for a while at what is now called Matlock bridge which crosses the Palouse River. Pictures of this area follow:
      

He then returned to the south of Rock lake area and rode his horses up the Ka-mi-akin creek canyon where Gene Webb road is now. He farmed on a small level right at the south end of the lake. Thanks to Gene Webb for his input as his wife's grandmother traded with Ka-mi-akin for blankets on a regular basis. He said she kept trying to tell us stories about the chief, and now I sure wish I would have listened better. Kamiakin lived at Rock Lake until April, 1877 when he died following a decline in his health during the previous winter. Kamiakin thought some bad corn might have been the cause of sickness. Even in death he could not find the peace that he had so long sought on the quiet shores of the lake. In the spring of 1878 a Scientist was traveling through the area looking for fossils and was shown the location of Kamiakin's grave. He exhumed the body and removed the head. The family was outraged when they later learned of the desecration and they reburied the chief's remains in an unmarked grave across the lake on property later acquired by the Henry Babcock family. The stolen skull has never been recovered. (From Legendary Shores, A History of Rock Lake 1996, Class of 2002, St. John Public Schools, Richard Scheuerman, Teacher-Principal) People will tell you that the original burial site of this famous chief was behind the Bailey place between the two tall twin trees, but others say the Hendersons owned that property, and they hated the Indians so that no Indian would ever even set foot on the property let alone do a burial there. Some books mention that the burial site was on a ridge overlooking the lake on the east side of the boat launch area. Then a year after this burial, the family dug up the grave to do some ceremony with the body and found it decapitated by a scientist. Now the remaining bones were moved across, straight across, to the west side and remain there today. The casket was built by John Eaton and Kamiakin's best buckskins were put on him. There is a controversy about Kamiakin's first burial site. One about 1/2 mile from Rock Lake southend towards Ewan, and the other just east of the south end of the lake. After a scientist stole the head of Kamiakin out of his grave, the body was reburied by a Medicine Man on the west side of the lake near a grove of trees, but only the Medicine Man knew for sure where.

    

Serpent Monster myths/stories/realities: Mainly that of a serpent that lives in the lake. First reported by native americans, and then others. Indians placed a taboo on this lake after warriors consumed by a sea serpent. Indians have said that once an entire tribe was lashed to destruction and eaten not may centuries ago , all to satisfy the greed of this very monster. People falling in have tended to go straight down. Drownees do not resurface lending credence to monster myths. Chief Spokane Garry remarked to Governor Stevens of the Washington Territories that this lake was unique in that you could see animals below the clear element.  Numerous barely submerged rocks along the shores, which should be watched by canoe paddlers especially, could explain some of the sea serpent stories. The lake is not fished as much as other lakes, but has great potential as it has shown strange fish populations, large fish, etc. Some contend that the only monsters on the lakes are giant Sturgeon that have somehow got into the lake. The Palouse News once reported a story from J.C. Cady, who said he had found a plausible answer to the mystery of the serpent. Cady said he was walking on the shore of the lake one day when he noticed a commotion in the water and saw what looked like a large animal swimming just beneath the surface. Luckily he was armed with a rifle, so he felt confident to stand his ground at this terrifying sight. The commotion kept coming closer and closer to where he was standing. "At last it dawned on me. Only a few feet away and directly below me was a solid column of suckers (fish). The column was as large around as a man's body and about ten feet long. Each sucker was standing straight up in the water [I wish I knew what was meant by this 'straight up' phrase]. The top of the column was about a foot below the surface of the water. After watching this strange phenomenon for a while...I took a shot with my rifle at the fish. Instantly it broke from its unity into a thousand fragments, each fragment being a sucker. Had the fish not been so near the shore that I could see them distinctly I should have been convinced that the body disturbing the water was the wonderful monster about which so much had been written. I believe that what I saw solved the mystery of the Rock Lake sea serpent. Cady may have been satisfied but stories and sightings have persisted over the years. The Leroy "Pete" Smith family of St. John, including Pet, his wife Marge, his mother Mrs. Aaron Smith, son Ken and daughter Linda Burke, go together with the Gazette to discuss Rock lake and its stories and related some tales of monster sightings. Marge Smith's mother, the late Mrs. Fred J. Wagner, told her that the lake was always considered taboo by the Indians. A story Mrs. Wagner had heard was that three squaws were out in a canoe when suddenly the bottom fell out of the canoe. The squaws disappeared, supposedly to the jaws of the monster. "I'm not surprised the squaws disappeared. The strange part of the story is that the bottom of a canoe could fall out," Mrs. Smith commented. Marge's father, the late Fred Wagner, who was "a religious man and wouldn't lie" said he and his hired man saw what looked like three men in a canoe off shore. They decided it warranted some investigation and climbed down to take a closer look. By the time they got down to the lake, the canoe-shape was gone. Two stories described the monster as looking like a log. Pete Smith is convinced that the sightings are all Sturgeon sightings. To many the possibility of a sturgeon in an inland lake is exactly as mysterious as the idea of a monster.

Shy Rock: On a monotonous road suddenly a rock appears like a crouched cougar out of nowhere. This rock caused many a horse to rear up, and killing at least one rider. The school near here was named Shy Rock School after the rock. The tree is a new comer.



Sawmill: (Active in 1926 at the hole in the ground site/vegetarians with a vengeance lived there/no longer present)

Rock Lake Post Office:

Considered as alternative for what became the Grand Coulee reservoir: Roosevelt lake won out over burying this area with water.


 Where: Go to Cheney, in the town's middle take Cheney Plaza way out towards Turnbull Wildlife refuge. There is a major sign pointing east to Turnbull. Go past Turnbull, but do not turn off the road you are on no matter what the road name changes. Finally you turn left after Williams Lake road and after Martin road on a road named Belsby the owner of the farm at Hole in the Ground. Because I've had some trouble relocating this place even though I've gone here many times, I am including the Global Positioning System reading taken exactly where you should park your car. GPS:(47 degrees/14 minutes/390 seconds North of equator)/(117 degrees/35 minutes/786 seconds West of mercator) Drive slowly on this small road till it takes you into a canyon and beautiful farmland. Park at the bridge over the creek. Unfortunately there is a no trespassing sign that you would have to cross for about 100 yards to get into the Devil's well on the west side wall of the canyon cliff in the middle of an old wagon trail that slopes from cliff top down to the canyon bottom. 

 Cautions: This place is very hot in summer, so go in spring or fall. Be extremely careful to bring a filter or lots of water if it is hot. Be very careful with fire as the Mt St Helens ash is still here mixing with the vegetation and it makes fire pits that are not rock lined catch very easily. Watch for snakes; local folks report lots of rattlesnakes on the shores. The most serious danger here is wind; it whips up huge waves, and there are very few places to land as the shores are mostly cliffs. Do not go out in windy weather, and if the wind picks up, head for shore immediately!
 
 List:  spare change of clothes in case you fall in, if you bring a high quality camera be sure it is in dry bag before you fall in. Call Milwaukee Railroad at 509-925-8510 to have them consider your access to their corridor into the Rock lake north end where there are falls, hiking, mtbike riding, etc.