SUP Camping on Washington’s Cooper Lake

During a recent camping trip to Cooper Lake, Wash., I discovered how spectacular the area is and that the best camping sites are accessed via water.  Inspired by an article in SUP magazine about a group that paddled the Big Sur coastline in California to camp and surf using their SUP boards and dry bags, I wanted to do a SUP camping trip of my own.  So a return trip to Cooper Lake with boards, paddles, s’mores, and beer became a priority.

We headed back to Seattle and the wet side of the Cascades to clock in for the week and prepare for the upcoming SUP camping adventure.  I was pumped!  My pal and long-time paddling partner, Tyler, had arrived from Boise and would join us on the Cooper Lake mission.  Jessica, my girlfriend, and Jack, our year- and-half-old Springer Spaniel, rounded out the team.  Jessica and I discovered SUP this past year.  Living in Seattle surrounded by water, SUP has quickly become one of our new passions.  We were stoked to combine our new sport with our love of camping.  This would be Tyler’s first time standup paddling.  A great athlete and long-time kayaker, we knew he would pick it up quickly.

None of us owned any standup equipment so we called up a local shop and they dialed us in with boards and paddles. With gear, supplies and treats for Jack, we were off.  The small, dirt boat ramp and unreal views that surround Cooper Lake greeted our return.  We unpacked the Subaru and laid out the gear for SUP transportation.  When I put the cooler on the board and slung my sleeping pad over my shoulder, I felt like Huck Fin.  Other folks at the boat launch oogled at my cool on-board rig and chuckled encouraging sentiments. Paddling on Cooper Lake that day was the bomb.  It was sunny with a slight breeze and the water was crystal clear, but super-chilly at elevation 5,269 feet. Tyler found out just how cold the mountain lake is when he had a beginner dip minutes after take-off.

We pulled into a campsite approximately a mile north of the boat ramp and unloaded our gear.  It was a perfect spot for an afternoon of SUP exploration.  At the far end of the lake is an easily accessible inlet.  We paddled away from Cooper Lake and up the river.  The forest was quiet, but full of its resident sounds–birds chirping, squirrels arguing.  Fish and mazes of submerged deadfall appeared beneath our boards.  We had a blast paddling through the forest.  Cruising up river was quickly halted by a large log jam.  For future consideration the log jam could easily be portaged and the adventure extended.  The camping trip was topped off with s’mores by the camp fire and an early morning paddle.  SUP overnighting is truly one of this sport’s most appealing aspects.

– Chad Randol

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