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Desert Wildlife Area

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The Desert Wildlife Area encompasses 35,100 acres. This was a true desert prior to the coming of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. Black sands (ground-up basalt) formed sand dunes, which were very actively moving until recent times.

The natural basin now serves as a collector for irrigation water from upslope farmlands. Most of this water is collected in the Winchester and Frenchman Hills Wasteways. The bulk of the land that comprises the Desert Wildlife Area borders both sides of the Winchester Wasteway--the main channel brings water from the Soap Lake area to the north down to the Potholes area basin and its surrounding farmland. You'll find a multitude of hunter/fisher trails that lead all along the north side of the wasteway and the numerous ponds/lakes/seeps around the wasteway. Each body of water has its own special appeal, each boasting a unique population of plants and animals. Hawks are commonly seen soaring overhead, giving testimony to the plethora of small birds, mammals, and reptiles in the area. The foliage includes pretty stands of hawthorn and Russian olive trees along the waterways.

From the parking area, head out along the north side of the wasteway. As you hike, you'll see huge sand dunes to the southeast--across the water. About 2 miles out from the trailhead, you'll have curved around the north side of the lakes basin and, still following the waterline, you'll turn south. Continue south and keep following the shore. The best scenery and wildlife viewing are seen in the first 3 miles of walking, so turn back at your leisure beyond that point.
Driving Directions:

From Moses Lake, drive west on Interstate 90 and leave the freeway at exit 164/Dodson Road. Turn south onto Dodson Road. Drive 3.4 miles and turn left into the large gravel, public access parking lot area signed "Public Hunting/Fishing." Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife permit required.

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There are 2 trip reports for this hike.
Desert Wildlife Area, Potholes Wildlife Area - North — Apr 28, 2010 — SRaySam
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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This walk offers a vast landscape across the Potholes Reservoir to the steppes, fields, and mountain...
This walk offers a vast landscape across the Potholes Reservoir to the steppes, fields, and mountains beyond. It holds geological interest in the form of the pothole lakes,the dark mineral sand dunes above the lakes, and the cobbles of lava and sandstone, left by the gigantic floods that shaped the area.It holds botanical interest in the form of wild flowers and shrubs that can survive in a sand dune,"wild begonia" (rumex) and Western Wallflower being in bloom right now. It offers a good array of waterfowl for the birdwatchers. That being said, the site has some problems. The display of phlox and balsam root in bloom was actually much better along the road coming in than at the site. The parking area has been used for target practice and is littered with broken glass, so tell the kids to be careful where they step. Finally, this time of year, the wind absolutely rips across the land and the lake, leaving ears aching in minutes, so bring earmuffs.
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Desert Wildlife Area — Mar 22, 2009 — mytho-man
Day hike
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Ethan Schrank & I took a hike at the Desert Wildlife Area (hike #72 in Best Desert Hikes) today. Af...
Ethan Schrank & I took a hike at the Desert Wildlife Area (hike #72 in Best Desert Hikes) today. After a brief false start that took us into the cattails and increasingly muddy ground, we backtracked and made our way over to a very clear trail that goes along the north edge of the series of lakelets and ponds as shown on the map in the hike book. There were large flocks of ducks on most ponds and we were continually scaring up giant flocks of Canada geese. Hawks cruised the cattails & sagebrush and we heard lots of songbirds, red winged blackbirds, & pheasants. We also saw a number of large beaver lodges and recently felled trees. After an hour and a half or so we found a nice place for lunch. Just as we were about to leave, I spotted an obviously well fed coyote who eyed us for a few minutes, then trotted off into the sagebrush. Though it was sunny in the west, we were under overcast skies all day. It was generally mild, however, and all the birds and signs of wildlife made for a very pleasant walk.
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Desert Wildlife Area- mytho-man.jpg
Desert Wildlife Area. Photo by mytho-man.
Location
Eastern Washington -- Potholes Region
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Statistics
Roundtrip 6.0 miles
Elevation Gain 50 ft
Highest Point 1150 ft
Features
Lakes
Wildflowers/Meadows
Wildlife
User info
Discover Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Best Desert Hikes: Washington (Bauer & Nelson - Mountaineers Books)
Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Moses Lake

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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