Conconully is one of those places that a lot of fishermen know well, and not so many nonfishing types know about. But unless they own a resort or other business in the area, they all might be wishing that I would shut up right now and not add to the traffic up and down the road from Omak and Okanogan.
Fishing’s not my thing, but I have gone to Conconully at least once a year since 1981 with friends who do fish, and I’ve talked to others who have fished there. They all love the two lakes that lie north and south of the little town. These are officially Conconully Lake (the upper lake) and Conconully Reservoir (lower lake).
From my friends, over the years, I have learned that triploids are not a muscle that body builders obsess about, and that helgramites are not an obscure religious sect, being large genetically altered trout and water bugs used for bait, respectively.
I also know that the state Department of Fish and Wildlife keeps the lakes around Conconully well-stocked with trout throughout the season, according to the department’s Web site, wdfw.wa.gov.
On the subject of fishing, I’ll leave you in the more-than-capable hands of Wayne Kruse, who writes about this kind of stuff in The Herald’s sports section on Thursdays.
Now we’ll talk about Conconully just as a great place to kick back, enjoy gorgeous scenery, see wildlife, hike, bike or get out on an ATV (or snowmobile in winter) — all in terrific weather (most of the time).
There are basically four places to stay right on the lakes: Conconully State Park, Liar’s Cove Resort, Shady Pines Resort (all on the lower lake), and Conconully Lake Resort (upper lake). All were pretty busy the weekend before the Memorial Day holiday, and they only get busier through the summer.
The state park on the north end of the reservoir is especially popular, with $17 per night campsites for RVs or tents and a short walk to a convenience store (also the town’s gas station). There are no reservations, except for one area at the south end of the park that can be reserved for groups.
Former Lake Stevens residents Ginger and Lewis Hansen have been camp hosts at the park for the past five years, but “we’ve been coming up here for 45 years,” Ginger Hansen said. “It’s a wonderful park. We love it here.”
Noting the cordoned-off areas and obvious construction going on, she said new restrooms and showers were going in to replace the old, much smaller facilities. She also said 15 new sites were being added with water and electricity hookups, which will be the first time the park has had electricity available at campsites.
RVs and tents were filling the southwest corner of the reservoir at Shady Pines Resort, owned by Dena and Steve Byl. “We have a lot of repeat business,” Dena Byl said. “People love it here and come back again and again and again.” She and her husband have had the resort the past nine years, and her parents owned it for 21 years before that.
Shady Pines, Liar’s Cove and Conconully Lake resort all have RV and tent campsites, along with cabins for rent. All their rates are comparable and vary according to the number of people in your party and location of the site, but generally you are looking at about $75 for a cabin, $27 for RV full hookups and $17 per tent site. (See the list with this article for contact information to get more specific rates.)
There are several places to rent rooms and cabins off the lake in the town of Conconully, as well. If you contact the Conconully Chamber of Commerce, you can get a full list of lodgings, eating places (there are four in town, three include bars) and stores (two).
About the stores: They are basic, serving campers and fishermen, as we have discovered over the years. One of my friends went looking for fresh mint. The response from the storekeeper, “We don’t have any fancy food here.” So, if you plan to cook fancy, bring your own, or plan to drive to Safeway in Omak, about 20 miles down the road.
Speaking of roads, if you take the Sinlahekin Road, which runs north along the upper lake, and keep going (it turns to dirt near the end of the lake), you can reach other popular fishing holes such as Fish Lake and Blue Lake, and that’s just two of the many lakes you can get to on various routes out of town.
Go straight through town on Main Street and follow the road to Salmon Meadows Campground, where there is access to several hiking trails, one leading up to Angel Pass for some great views.
Another trail off this road will take you on a long uphill route to Tiffany Lake, a pretty little lake below Tiffany Mountain. A trail leads to the peak from there, but you can also reach the peak from the Freezeout Ridge trail, off Forest Service Road 39, which can be reached via FS 37 near the south end of Conconully Reservoir.
Be aware that it’s a long, rough 24-mile drive, but it’s a great payoff. Plus, a little farther down FS 37 you can find a one-mile trail down to Tiffany Lake, easier for folks who want to pack fishing gear in, and many do.
If you do want to venture far out of town, bring maps or get some at the stores or resorts. You really don’t have to go too far to find a nice trail to stretch your legs. Conconully Wildlife Refuge is just east of the reservoir.
Aside from maps, bring a bird book, because the lakes and hills are full of waterfowl, songbirds, woodpeckers, grouse, quail, owls, eagles — the variety shifts through the year. Herds of deer roam along the lakeshores and through the trees, along with the usual muskrats, raccoons, squirrels and chipmunks. Cougars, bear and elk are not uncommon in the area. Remember that there may be rattlesnakes in the hills, too.
Walk through the town, too, the main street and neighborhoods. It won’t take too long, and it’s an interesting mixture of old and new homes, including a picturesque church and a museum.
Conconully was a silver-mining town established in 1887 and was the Okanogan County seat from 1889 to 1914. The present-day Community Hall was built from lumber salvaged from the old County Hall. Population today is about 190.
It’s a blue-collar kind of place, but they’ll make even citified people feel welcome. The resorts are not ritzy, but comfortable, and even though there is a place to get espresso in town now, don’t go looking for fancy food.
Ron Ramey: 425-339-3443, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staying in Conconully
Conconully State Park: Open all year for day use, campground closed from mid-October to mid-March. Restrooms, showers, boat launch. Sites for RVs or tents, $17. New RV sites with utilities under construction.
Conconully Lake Resort: 102 Sinlahekin Road, P.O. Box 131, Conconully, WA 98819; 800-850-0813; www.upperconconullylakeresort.com
Liar’s Cove Resort: 1835A Conconully Highway, P.O. Box 72, Conconully, WA 98819; 800-830-1288; www.liarscoveresort.com
Shady Pines Resort: P.O. Box 44, Conconully, WA 98819; 800-552-2287; www.shadypinesresort.com
Conconully Chamber of Commerce (for more information on lodging): P.O. Box 309, Conconully, WA 98819; 877-826-9050; email@example.com, www.conconully.com