After shattering records for high temperatures and lack of precipitation last spring and summer, we had a record cold and wet spring 2022 in Eastern Washington. The weather put a kink in a lot of our outdoor plans, but we did manage a fun week of camping, hiking, and kayaking at Central Washington’s popular Steamboat Rock State Park.

Hiking around the north end of massive Steamboat Rock

A State Park Millions of Years in the Making

Steamboat Rock, a 800 foot columnar basalt butte in Central Washington, was once an island in the ancient Columbia River bed. When the Columbia returned to its original course after the Ice Age floods, Steamboat Rock was left standing in bone dry Grand Coulee (a coulee is a steep-walled trough in a basalt plateau). Thanks to the creation of 27 mile long Banks Lake in 1951 as part of the Columbia Basin Project, Steamboat Rock is once again almost completely surrounded by water.

I found this neat old photo of Steamboat Rock prior to the flooding of Grand Coulee
Present day Steamboat Rock surrounded by the waters of Banks Lake

Grand Coulee Dam, built by the United States Bureau of Reclamation on the Columbia River, created Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake. The surface of Lake Roosevelt is several hundred feet above the Columbia River, making it easier to pump water 280 feet up and out of the river’s canyon into adjacent Grand Coulee. Two dams keep the water in Grand Coulee, creating Banks Lake Reservoir. The water stored in Banks Lake is distributed over a large region for irrigation. In total, the Columbia Basin Project serves about 671,000 acres in Central Washington. There are over 300 miles of main canals, about 2,000 miles of laterals, and 3,500 miles of drains and wasteways.

Steamboat Rock present day

Steamboat Rock State Park, established in 1972, occupies a 3,522-acre peninsula that juts into the north end of Banks Lake. The park includes multiple campgrounds, a large day-use area, several boat launches, a swim area, hiking and equestrian trails, lush green lawns and towering Steamboat Rock. The park lies within the larger Steamboat Rock State Park Recreation Area which includes Northrup Canyon and Castle Rock areas as well as Northrup Point, Jones Bay, and Osborn Bay. Click here for park brochure.

View across to the Jones Bay area of Banks Lake from Steamboat Rock


The main campground at Steamboat Rock State Park has 26 standard campsites, 164 full hookup sites, three cabins, dump station, restrooms and showers. Maximum site length for RVs is 50 feet. Individual campsites are reservable April 1 to Oct. 31. Campsites are available on a first-come first-served basis from Nov. 1 to March 31. Click here for campground map.

Looking down on the main campground from the trail to the top of Steamboat Rock
The new Cove Camp Loop at Steamboat Rock added 30 more camping sites. A paved, ADA accessible path connects each of the campground loops to the marina area.

For those who want to get away from the crowds, there are 44 primitive campsites at Jones Bay, 36 primitive sites at Osborn Bay, and 12 boat-in sites north of the main campground launch. All primitive sites are first come, first served. Northrup Canyon has five campsites for equestrian campers. These sites require a reservation.

Camping fees vary depending on time of year and site amenities. We stayed during the shoulder season (April 1 – May 14) in a full hookup site (water, electric, sewer) and paid $45 per night plus a $8 reservation fee. Click here for fee schedule and here for reservation/cancellation/out-of-state fees.

We stayed in site #11 (Sage Loop) and our friends Scott and Torrey were directly across the road from us in site #20. We had great views of Steamboat Rock and partial views of Banks Lake. Sites in Sage Loop are surrounded by green grass with some nice trees and a respectable amount of separation between sites. Our site was easy to back into and was plenty long enough for our combined 55 foot length (sites vary). The park was quiet during the week, but nearly full on Friday and Saturday nights. I highly recommend making advanced reservations if you plan to camp over a spring weekend. I reserved our sites a month and a half in advance and had very little to choose from. Initially, I was disappointed that our site was about as far from the water as it gets. Once there, we were very pleased with our site as it seemed to have better separation from our neighbors than those closer to the water and had a stellar view of Steamboat Rock.

Site #11 in Sage Loop


There is no shortage of activities available at Steamboat Rock State Park. We were there to enjoy some area hikes (see our next blog post) and to get our new Hobie kayaks out on the water. Other activities include:

  • 13.1 miles of bike trails
  • 10 miles of horse trails
  • Day use/picnic
  • Seven watercraft launches and 320 feet of dock
  • Fishing (including 5 fish cleaning stations and a fishing pier)
  • Boating and personal watercraft use
  • Waterskiing
  • Swimming
  • Ice climbing
  • Ice fishing
  • Nordic skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Bird watching
  • Mountain biking
  • Playground
  • Amphitheater
  • Basketball court
  • Rock climbing
  • Volleyball court (sand)
  • Visit nearby Grand Coulee Dam or Sun Lakes – Dry Falls State Park
The park’s main boat launch
Lots of boat trailer parking near the launch
Fishing off Northrup Point


Steamboat Rock State Park is located 11 miles south of Electric City, Washington off Hwy 155 in Central Washington. The park is open for day use from 6:30-dusk year round. Some portions of the park may be closed during the winter. A Discover Pass is required for vehicle access to state parks for day use. Fees are $10 per day or a very reasonable $30 per year. For those camping at Steamboat, there is no additional fee to launch watercraft. For those not camping at Steamboat, you must have a launch permit in addition to a Discover Pass (click here for available options).

Exploring the trails from the boat launch

The Adventure Continues

Be sure to join us on our next adventure as we hit the trail at Steamboat Rock State Park and nearby Sun Lakes – Dry Falls State Park. And don’t forget to check out our Amazon RV and Adventure Gear recommendations. We only post products that we use and that meet the Evans Outdoor Adventures seal of approval. By accessing Amazon through our links and making any purchase (even things as simple as toothpaste!), you get Amazon’s every day low pricing and they share a little with us. This helps us maintain this website and is much appreciated!

Indy showing off his card playing skills on a rainy day

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