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These eight great swims will help you beat the heat

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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After weeks of soaring temperatures, I consider it a public service to publish a list of Mason County's best "quick access" beaches and swimming holes.

Belfair State Park (8), Potlatch State Park (7), and Twanoh State Park (6) all support swimming, rafting and launching small water-craft like kayaks and canoes.

You may also camp at all three parks.

Most folks will agree that Twanoh has the nicest, sandiest beaches, as well as the sweetest, shadiest picnic shelters and places to walk and play. Thank the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and their loving handiwork from the 1930s. CCC-built structures have beautified hundreds of parks throughout the USA.

Note: all three parks require a Discover Pass or equivalent to park legally.


In a pinch, get wet at Mason Lake County Park (5). Though developed (and improved) with boat launching in mind, no one will stop you from wading in or pushing off a couple of air mattresses from here.

Check the speedboat and Jet Ski traffic before sending the kids out on a raft, however.

I'm not aware of what the current patterns are for nighttime boating, but if it was hot yet quiet on the lake, and I had a few daring friends, I would explore what it might be like to paddle three or four rafts out to the middle, drop a construction block for an anchor and sing some old camp-fire tunes beneath the stars.

It wouldn't hurt to bring a stick and mount an LED light for protective visibility.


Turn off U.S. Highway 101 at Skokomish Valley Road (4) and drive 4 miles until you see the South Fork Skokomish River on your right. For the next quarter mile along this stretch several pullouts and short trails invite you to the river.

Here the water is clean and refreshingly cool. I saw several large trout darting by. While deep along the near shore, the opposite shore tapers to a wide, rocky sandbar with plenty of suntan, picnic and kid-safe, shallow wading opportunities.

The largest and shadiest pullout (4.2 miles) has attracted party crowds to the river. Overuse combined with bad manners is threatening to ruin this fine swimming hole. Litter has no place in a river.

Schafer State Park (3) provides an excellent contrast to the abuse just noted. Here, at a bend in the East Fork Sat-sop River, local parents have been bringing their children for generations to play along the riffles and wading pools just east of the campgrounds.

I imagine water levels are down to bare inches in spots, but you can be sure the cool, refreshing ritual of swimming in the river at Schafer is still being appreciated. Even though huge groups of all ages picnic along the banks for hours, the grounds are treated with respect, and litter is rarely an issue.

Red Rock (2) is a common name for the swimming and jumping hole about a half-mile up the Staircase Rapids Loop Trail in Olympic National Park. While the water must be honestly rated as cold, the thrill of leaping from 10 to 15 feet high off the cliffs completely nullifies this slight inconvenience on your skin.

Part of the magic is knowing the degree of shock, and then watching that boy or girl who is about to jump for their very first time.

They scream. They splash. They tear like mad, swimming for shore.

"Welcome to the club," you say.


Lake Cushman (1) is the perfect location sporting the perfect water temperature for a hot August cool-off. But getting a good spot remains a challenge for many.

To beat the crowds, leave around 9 a.m., taking Highway 119 from Hoodsport. Set your odometer at zero just as you hit the "T" where you must continue left on Highway 119 instead of right on Forest Service 24.

At 4.1 miles you are there. This rock outcrop has privacy, shade, soft spots for towels and sun bathing, plus two rocky knobs for jumping about seven feet high into the lake.

Pack your coolers full and bring your friends. This spot will support about a dozen water lovers. However, the grounds require care. I saw some orange rinds and a Red Bull where they didn't belong.

Pick it up. Pack it out. Please.

Mark Woytowich is a writer, photographer and video producer who lives in Potlatch. He can be reached at

Copyright 2015 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: August 6, 2015

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