Lake Cushman

Coordinates: 47°28′48″N 123°15′0″W / 47.48000°N 123.25000°W / 47.48000; -123.25000
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lake Cushman
Twana: ʔiluʔəɬ[1]
Lake Cushman and Hood Canal, as viewed from the summit of Mt. Ellinor
Location of Lake Cushman in Washington, USA.
Location of Lake Cushman in Washington, USA.
Lake Cushman
Location of Lake Cushman in Washington, USA.
Location of Lake Cushman in Washington, USA.
Lake Cushman
LocationMason County, Washington, United States
Coordinates47°28′48″N 123°15′0″W / 47.48000°N 123.25000°W / 47.48000; -123.25000
Lake typeReservoir
Primary inflowsSkokomish River
Primary outflowsSkokomish River
Basin countriesUnited States
Max. length8.64 mi (13.90 km)
Max. width1.10 mi (1.77 km)
Surface area4,014.6 acres (16.247 km2)
Surface elevation739 ft (225 m)
SettlementsLake Cushman

Lake Cushman (Twana: ʔiluʔəɬ)[1] is a 4,014.6-acre (16.247 km2)[2] lake and reservoir on the north fork of the Skokomish River in Mason County, Washington. The lake originally was a long narrow broadening of the Skokomish River formed in a glacial trough and dammed by a terminal moraine from the Vashon Glaciation during the most recent ice age.

The lake was expanded after construction of the Cushman Dam No. 1. The lake is maintained by this dam and provides electrical power to the Tacoma Power system.

As a popular retreat for hiking, fishing, boating and kayaking, Lake Cushman's shoreline is dotted with resorts and rental cabins. The lake is notable for its beautiful crystal clear blue water and the huge round rocks surrounding it, as well as thick stands of hemlock, fir and cedar trees.


The Twana call Lake Cushman, as well as Mount Washington, a nearby mountain, ʔiluʔəɬ.[1]

Lake Cushman was named in honor of Orrington Cushman, who served as interpreter for Governor Isaac Stevens during the Treaty of Point Elliott negotiations with the Indigenous peoples of Puget Sound in 1854.[3]


Panoramic image of Lake Cushman, 5000 feet below, as viewed from the summit of Mount Ellinor on a summer afternoon.

Lake Cushman sits at 739 feet (225 m) above sea level and its maximum depth reaches up to 115 feet (35 m). It is estimated to be around 10 miles (16 km) in length.[citation needed] The northern part of the lake (FS-24) is near the Staircase Entrance to Olympic National Park.[4] The closest city is Hoodsport, located 5 miles (8.0 km) to the southeast via State Route 119. Surrounding the lake are Mount Ellinor, Mount Washington, Cub Peak, Mount Gladys, and Mount Rose. Access to Lake Cushman is limited during the winter months due to road closures and hazardous conditions. In an average winter, the lake water level drops by 30 feet (9.1 m).[5]


The Antlers Hotel on Lake Cushman, c. 1913

The Skokomish people, a subgroup of the Twana, have inhabited Lake Cushman and the surrounding land since time immemorial. There was a village of the Skokomish near what is now Skokomish Park, which was, prior to the construction of the dam, the furthest south extent of the lake.[1]

In 1889, the Antlers Hotel was built on Lake Cushman by a pair of East Coast businessmen on the property of Russell Homan. It attracted tourists from the Seattle area, who would arrive at Hoodsport by steamship and continue onward to Lake Cushman via stagecoach. The two-story hotel was destroyed in 1925 after it was inundated by rising lake waters following the construction of the Cushman Dam No. 1 by the City of Tacoma. After the property was flooded, many have attempted to search for the remains of the hotel under the lake.[6]

2020 traffic jam incident[edit]

In August 2020, the U.S. Forest Service temporarily closed all public roads leading to Lake Cushman due to concerns of overcrowding amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A 6-mile (9.7 km) weekend traffic jam on the lake's primary two-lane, unpaved road had caused concerns about access for emergency vehicles, including an incident where one man died of drowning. The Forest Service also cited the congregation of people as being a potential vector for spreading COVID-19 and noted several fights, assaults, and other incidents.[7]


Lake Cushman from Mt. Rose, 1899


The Lake Cushman area offers access to multiple hiking trails:[4]

  • Big Creek Campground Trail #827
  • Big Creek Trailhead
  • Big Creek Upper Loop #827.1
  • Copper Creek Trail #876
  • Copper Creep Trailhead
  • Dry Creek East Trailhead
  • Dry Creek Trail #872
  • Jefferson Pass Trailhead
  • Mt. Ellinor Connector Trail #827.2
  • Mt. Ellinor Lower Trailhead
  • Mt. Ellinor Trail #812
  • Mt. Ellinor Upper Trailhead


Lake Cushman with stumps showing changing water levels

Lake Cushman has year-round open season fishing and is stocked with Kokanee salmon and Cutthroat trout.[8] Skokomish Park is fitted with a boat ramp with three paved ramps that allows access to the lake for a small day-use fee. Boat rentals are also available at the park.[citation needed]

Swimming and watersports[edit]

Swimming, boating, kayaking and cliff jumping are also among the most popular activities for Lake Cushman visitors. Public access to the lake is available at Skokomish Park and Lake Cushman Resort.[4]


The Skokomish Park campground is a former state park that was sold to private operators in 2002.[9] The campground includes tent and RV campsites, group campsites and picnic areas.[10][unreliable source?] Further away from the lake are Big Creek Campground in Olympic National Forest and Staircase Campground in Olympic National Park. Big Creek offers tent sites and RV parking and is situated 8 miles (13 km) from the lake.[11] Staircase is 1 mile (1.6 km) from Lake Cushman and offers 47 camping sites.[12]

The Lake Cushman Resort was permanently closed in 2018 due to the expiration of its 50-year lease with Tacoma Public Utilities.[13][unreliable source?]


  1. ^ a b c d Elmendorf, William W. (1960). The Structure of Twana Culture. Washington State University.
  2. ^ a b "Lake Cushman". Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  3. ^ Meany, Edmond S. (1923). Origin of Washington geographic names. Seattle: University of Washington Press. p. 138.
  4. ^ a b c "Lake Cushman Area". United States Forest Service.
  5. ^ McCarthy, Sean L. (March 13, 2001). "Lake Cushman: Showing more shore". Kitsap Sun. Retrieved January 21, 2022.
  6. ^ Bull, Arla Shephard (March 22, 2017). ""The Search for Antlers Hotel" debuts at Shelton Cinemas". Kitsap Sun. Retrieved February 6, 2022.
  7. ^ Henry, Chris (August 21, 2020). "Cushman Lake recreation area closed due to overuse by the public". Kitsap Sun. Retrieved January 21, 2022.
  8. ^ "Featured Lakes". United States Forest Service.
  9. ^ Dunagan, Christopher (November 24, 2002). "State park now privately run Camp Cushman". Kitsap Sun. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  10. ^ "Skokomish Park". Skokomish Tourism. Retrieved January 21, 2022.
  11. ^ "Big Creek Campground". Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  12. ^ "Visiting Staircase - Olympic National Park (U.S. National Park Service)". National Park Service. Retrieved January 21, 2022.
  13. ^ "Lake Cushman Resort + Campground". Outdoor Project. Retrieved February 6, 2022.

External links[edit]