Cooper Lake Swimming Hole

Cooper Lake Swimming Hole


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There is a mountain oasis hidden fifteen miles west of Roslyn, Washington along State Route 903, created by the Cooper River. The locals call it “Cooper.” They come for the rope swing and cliff diving, but they stay for the serenity offered by its beauty.

Park your car at the Salmon la Sac trailhead and then follow the Cooper River trail for a few minutes. The trail bends uphill above the trickling Cooper River.

A few minutes from the Salmon la Sac trailhead, the Cooper River shrinks from the size of an eight-lane highway to the width of a sidewalk in less than a hundred feet.  Douglas-fir trees are lined along rain-cloud grey rocks, overlooking the river. White water avalanches over half a dozen boulders, growling like a thousand static TVs.

Below, the river levels and opens up, as if pouring into an hourglass. The once white Cooper River turns into a deep and dark teal pool as it slows to a near halt.

The trail will lead you down onto a ledge that staggers down into a 10-foot high cliff, creating a natural patio. It receives direct sunlight throughout the day, making it an ideal place for sunbathing and hanging out.

On the opposite side of the river, moss-covered cliffs rise 15 feet above the water. Trails peel back from the top of the cliff and disappears into the forest. A dying 60-foot tree stands on the ledge; halfway up a rope swing is tied off and hangs all the way to the forest floor.

The number of people you’ll encounter at Cooper varies: some days you’ll have it to yourself, others you’ll share it with a few bright-eyed refugees from the city.

To get to the rope swing, dive in from the north side and then swim across the current to the south side. This requires some skill as a swimmer–you don’t have to be an expert, but weak swimmers should not attempt. Make your way up and around the slanted cliffs once you’ve crossed.

Stretch the rope at a slight angle to the left when facing the river. Walk the rope back away from the river, pulling it as far as you can. Abandoning good judgement, run to the cliff’s edge and leap into the air. Let the rope take you over the middle. Once you feel your forward momentum wane, release your grip and let your body drop 20 feet into the river.

Swim back to the base of the patio cliff and you’ll find a small trail used by generations of daredevils that will lead you back to your friends. The trail cuts along a steep rock face and requires the use of all four limbs at times–shoes are recommended.

Also recommended is a lay in the sun and a beer.



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