Riffe Lake, Washington, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Washington - Seattle & Puget Sound -

Also known as:  Riffe Reservoir, Mossyrock Lake, Davisson Lake

Riffe Lake by any other name would still be a fantastic recreational spot. The name confusion for this man-made reservoir in the Seattle and Puget Sound region is because since opening in 1968, it has had two name changes. Originally named Mossyrock Lake because it formed behind Mossyrock Dam, the name was changed at one point to Davisson Lake. In 1976, the lake’s name was changed to Riffe Lake in honor of a small pioneer village that now lies beneath the lake’s waters. Some will likely call it Mossyrock Lake forever.

Riffe Lake had its beginnings when Mossyrock Dam was built across the Cowlitz River for hydroelectric power production. Part of the Cowlitz River Project, the dam is owned by Tacoma Power Company, and the project includes nearby Mayfield Lake downstream. In keeping with industry best practices, recreation, flood control and wildlife habitat are built into the design and operating plans. Water releases are timed to keep the river depths optimal for fish. The reservoir is open for camping and fishing year-round, with two utility-operated parks offering a large number of well-appointed campsites, swim areas, playground, picnic areas and boat ramps. Although there are no private homes directly on the shoreline, several are located nearby in the hills with great views of the lake. The lakeshore is heavily wooded and imparts a wilderness feeling once out of sight of the boat ramps.

The two main campgrounds are located at Mossyrock Park at the west end south of the dam and at Taidnapam Park on the east end near the Cowlitz inlet. Mossyrock has 152 campsites, 76 of them with electric and water hook-ups, a separate group camping area, and an area dedicated to walk-in primitive group tent camping. The camping areas are spread out under the trees, and all have fire rings and picnic tables. Coin-operated showers and laundry facilities are on-site, and a store/concession stand sells snacks and supplies seasonally. Taidnapam Park has 139 campsites, all with electric and water hook-ups. Ninety-six sites also have sewer connections for RVs. Another 24 walk-in sites serve those with a desire for solitude. The small swim areas are open when water levels permit, and a very popular ‘fishing bridge’ is wheelchair-accessible. Both parks have day-use areas also. An interpretive exhibit near the entrance to Taidnapam Park relays the history of the area’s Native American residents more than 4,600 years ago. Other commercial campgrounds are located nearby. A few free campsites are located near the dam on a first-come basis.

Fishing is always a big attraction at Riffe Lake. The lake holds coho salmon, coastal cutthroat trout, chinook salmon, brown trout, crappie, smallmouth bass and bluegill. Because the dams interrupted natural salmon migration on the river, salmon are raised at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery downstream and, together with migrating salmon netted below the dams, trucked upstream to be stocked in the river above Riffe Lake. The altered life cycles of these artificially-transported salmon are the focus of several on-going studies aimed toward improving the fishery.

At least five boat ramps are located on Riffe Lake, mostly in or near the two parks. Most have floating docks to accommodate varying water levels. There appear to be no restrictions on motor size, but special fishing regulations may be in place. A Washington fishing license is required. Nearby, small Swofford Pond also offers fishing, but no motors are allowed on this lake. Swofford Pond holds largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, brown trout, channel catfish, crappie and yellow perch.

Those looking for hiking opportunities and wildlife viewing are in for a treat. The Cowlitz Wildlife Area’s Peterman Ridge Unit sprawls along the northern shore of Riffe Lake. Over 10 miles of multi-use trails cross the area, mostly on single-track forest roads. The 6,855-acre unit Wildlife Area also offers trout fishing in streams and big game hunting in season including bear, deer and elk. The wildlife area includes much of the Riffe Lake shoreline and serves to protect such birds of prey as bald eagles and osprey, shorebirds, waterfowl, songbirds and wading birds. Small mammals thrive in the near-shore undergrowth. Other wildlife protection areas surround nearby Mayfield Lake. No campfires are allowed in the wildlife area.

Although there are no towns on Riffe Lake, several small communities nearby offer supplies, fast food and some types of lodgings. The town of Mossyrock down river has grocery stores, general services, gas stations and the like. Nearby, the small City of Morton provides an unusual collection of arts-related shops and theater productions. From its old logging history comes tales of unique characters and historic buildings. Traveling along US 12, the White Pass Scenic Byway, one can see Mount St. Helens to the south and Mount Rainier to the north. The best way to get to Riffe Lake is to take US 12 east off I-5 south of Chehalis-a distance of about 60 miles.

Because this is scenic vacation area, a number of lodgings can be found nearby. Several small resorts, guest cabins and bed & breakfasts can be located near US 12, with small motels found near the towns and major intersections. Following US 12 east past Riffe Lake leads travelers into Mount Rainier National Park. Not all access routes into the national park are open in winter, and drivers through this scenic area should plan for winter mountain driving and heed all warning signs. Many roads are closed from November to May. Riffe Lake makes for the ideal home base for sightseeing this scenic area.

Things to do at Riffe Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • Playground

Fish species found at Riffe Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Brown Trout
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Chinook Salmon
  • Coho Salmon
  • Crappie
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Yellow Perch

Riffe Lake Photo Gallery

Riffe Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Tacoma Power Company

Surface Area: 11,830 acres

Shoreline Length: 52 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 778 feet

Water Volume: 1,686,000 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 1,042 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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