Get away, stay close

Published on Thu, Aug 29, 2002 by Meg Olson

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Get away, stay close

By Meg Olson

Silver Lake Park is billed as a county park, but it looks and feels like a lakeside resort that just time-warped itself out of August 1956. Mom and dad sit under an umbrella eating potato salad while their sun-hatted babies splash at the beach. Teenage girls blush and giggle as their new beaux take them on a pedal-boat spin. Fresh-faced summer staffers serve up hotdogs for a handful of change. A boy catches his first fish while his sister takes a picture from the cabin porch. Pure bucolic summer fun.

The center of the 411-acre park was in fact a private resort in the 1950’s and retains a lot of its features. A the center is the day lodge, with offices and a store, showers, a small restaurant and boat rentals. The restaurant serves basic fare at rock bottom prices. Burgers and fries for a few dollars, and summer classics like orange creamsicles or ice cream sandwiches for a buck.

For dates, rent a pedal boat for $9 an hour, or rent a canoe for $7 an hour, sneak up on your sisters at the beach and splash them, making a quick waterborne getaway.

Alternately, stay out of trouble, grab your fishing gear and rent a rowboat for $6. “Fishing’s great,” said park manager Mike McAlcon. “There are still lots of planted rainbows. Silver Lake is stocked with rainbow trout every year and got 17,000 of the critters this spring. After the opening day frenzy April 27, when McAlcon said the fish were fairly jumping into boats, the hatchery trout have gotten a little wiser so they now pose a bit of a challenge as well as a meal.

“When they figure out nobody’s coming around with pellets they get a little wiser,” McAlcon said. He added cutthroat trout become active in late summer and early fall and there are some largemouth bass hiding out in the reeds. There is no size limit on these fish and the daily limit is five, whether kept or released.

Fly fishing is popular, “mostly using trolling flies that imitate dragonfly and damselfly nymphs,” McAlcon said. “Woolly buggers are kind of the standard.” Standard spinning gear and bait are also perennial favorites. “Worms, salmon eggs and powerbait, we sell them all here in the tackle shop,” McAlcon laughed, pointing out a particular favorite – rainbow sparkle power nuggets.

All anglers need a license and you can get them down the road at the Maple Falls liquor store. For those with there own boats the park has a boat launch but use of motors is restricted.

There is a whole medley of options for overnight stays at the park. There are trailer and tent sites, a special campground for the horsey set complete with stables. There is a special network of horse trails around the park, which also encompasses an old timber site and homestead. For those without horses there are also hiking trails. Options for groups include a lodge that can accommodate eight from $145 a night for county residents and a group campsite and picnic area.

Six of the resort’s original cabins are still available for rent, all of them overlooking the lake and half of them with fireplaces. “We kept what we could intact when the county took over,” said park manager Mike McAlcon. Only one of the cabins has a bathroom but toilets are only yards away and there are showers in the main lodge. Cabins cost from $50 for the small ones if you live in Whatcom county to $80 for non-county residents renting the large one with a bathroom.

Visiting the park for the day is free to Whatcom County residents and property owners, but costs $4 per vehicle for non-residents. For more information call 360/599-2776 or visit the park’s very informative web page at

The park is located at 9006 Silver Lake Road in Maple Falls, Washington. Coming From British Columbia, enter the United States at the Huntington/Sumas crossing and follow the signs for Mount Baker along state route 547, turn left on South Pass Road which morphs into Silver Lake Road and you’re there.

Coming off Interstate 5 from Blaine head up the Mount Baker Highway (SR542) and into Maple Falls. Turn left on Silver Lake Road..