Coldwater Lake, Washington, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Washington - Southwest Washington -

Today Coldwater Lake is a peaceful, scenic 750-acre lake, but the violence of Mount St. Helens created the lake in 1980. On May 18, 1980, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake under Mount St. Helens caused a huge landslide and started an eruption that would forever change the face of the mountain. In 15 minutes a column of ash shot 80,000 feet into the air. It would take four days for all the ash to rain down on the earth covering 11 states. The landslide raced down Mount St. Helens, reaching speeds of 70 to 150 miles an hour. It covered 23 square miles and buried the North Fork Toutle River under tons of ash, mud and debris reaching 600 feet deep in some places. When the dust settled, literally, the peak of Mount St. Helens had dropped about 1,300 feet, and there were two new lakes at its base. Coldwater Lake and its sister, Castle Lake, were created when debris dammed the Coldwater Creek Valley.

Turning lemons into lemonade, two years later Congress established the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. The monument encompasses 110,000 acres and includes several lakes and recreation areas. The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake has exhibits to illustrate the volcano’s history and a wetland trail explaining the creation of Silver Lake during a previous eruption. Johnston Ridge Observatory is in the heart of the blast zone, and it has an inspiring view of the collapsed crater. Open seasonally, the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center has a gift shop, restaurant, and exhibits illustrating the forces at work in the area. Mount St. Helens is a popular climbing destination, but it is still an active volcano so extra precaution is necessary before attempting to climb the 8,363-foot peak. Advisories are posted, and a permit is required to climb the volcano.

Coldwater Lake spans parts of Cowlitz and Skamania Counties and is surrounded by the Coldwater Lake Recreation Area which has picnic facilities and a “Birth of the Lake” interpretive trail. A park boat launch provides lake access. Only electric motors are allowed on Coldwater Lake, and there is a creel limit to preserve and strengthen the fishing. After it formed, the lake was stocked with rainbow trout which naturalized and are now reproducing on their own. There are also healthy populations of cutthroat trout. The US Army Corps of Engineers created a bedrock spillway channel to prevent Coldwater Lake from overtopping, but nature has done the rest of the work to heal the lake and its surrounding environment.

The Coldwater Lake Recreation Area is for day use only, but there is camping nearby at Seaquest State Park. The 475-acre park includes a mile of Silver Lake’s shoreline. Campers can fish, boat and swim at the campground’s beach. There are also trails for hiking and biking. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Part of the Mt. Rainier Forest Reserve, the 1,312,000-acre forest was created in 1897 and renamed for the conservationist, Gifford Pinchot, in 1949.

Vacation rentals are not available directly on Coldwater Lake. The town of Castle Rock, less than an hour away, provides vacation rentals, boat rentals, restaurants, and other amenities for visitors. Real estate is available for sale for those wishing to make their stay in volcano country more permanent.

History has taught us that nothing is permanent. The earth and water can be reshaped in a matter of hours. But sometimes out of the destruction comes a beautiful, tranquil place like Coldwater Lake.

Things to do at Coldwater Lake WA

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • State Park
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Coldwater Lake WA

  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Coldwater Lake WA Photo Gallery

Coldwater Lake WA Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 750 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 2,490 feet

Average Depth: 78 feet

Maximum Depth: 190 feet

Water Volume: 70,000 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 11,200 sq. miles

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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