Potholes Reservoir, Washington, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Potholes Reservoir — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

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All About Potholes Reservoir

Potholes Reservoir was formed by the building of the O’Sullivan Dam which is one of the largest earthfill dams in the United States. The name “pothole” originated due to large depressions in the earth in that area, some as large as 70 yards wide by 60 feet deep, created during the Pleistocene flooding in prehistoric times. These potholes were filled in the 1950s after the completion of the O’Sullivan Dam, and water began to fill the reservoir.

The Potholes Reservoir and O’Sullivan Dam were built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation as part of the Columbia Basin Project. The O’Sullivan Dam was named after James O’Sullivan a local attorney who campaigned continuously to bring water to the then dry area of central Washington. The main purpose of the Potholes Reservoir is to collect return flows from all irrigation in the upper portion of the project for reuse and irrigating in the lower portion. With a maximum depth of 142 feet and mean depth of 18 feet, there is a wide fluctuation of water in the reservoir due to the irrigation process. No power is generated from the O’Sullivan Dam.

Surrounded by sand dunes and rocky canyons, Potholes Reservoir is a nature lover’s paradise. Located on the Pacific Flyway, birdwatchers can watch millions of birds use the area as a resting and feeding stop on their annual migrations in addition to the many birds and waterfowl that are native to the area. Bass, perch, sunfish, crappie are plentiful for fishing in the Potholes Reservoir. Jackrabbits, ground squirrels, marmots, muskrats and a large variety of mice are abundant in the area where coyotes are the most abundant predatory mammal. Mule deer can be seen in the fringe areas where appropriate habitat exists.

Located on 640 acres with 6000 feet of shoreline, Potholes State Park has over 350,000 visitors a year. There are four boat ramps for boating and other water sports, as well as sandy beaches for swimming. Campsites with and without utility hookup are available however, no campsites are next to the Potholes Reservoir.

Built to bring beneficial water to the farming lands, Potholes Reservoir has become a recreational and nature retreat for thousands. Whether you come for the recreational activities, the great fishing, or just to enjoy the natural beauty of the terrain, Potholes Reservoir will definitely will be worth the trip.

Things to Do at Potholes Reservoir

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Camping
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park

Fish Species Found at Potholes Reservoir

  • Bass
  • Crappie
  • Perch
  • Sunfish

Find Places to Stay at Potholes Reservoir

If you’re considering a Potholes Reservoir lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Potholes Reservoir Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Potholes Reservoir lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • Booking.com – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, Booking.com connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • Hotels.com – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, Hotels.com is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Potholes Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Bureau of Reclamation

Surface Area: 27,800 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,052 feet

Average Depth: 18 feet

Maximum Depth: 142 feet

Water Volume: 500,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1949

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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