Merrill Lake


Features Protected: Old-growth forest, mid-elevation lake, Cascade torrent salamander, osprey, bald eagle
Ecoregion: West Cascades (Cowlitz County)

Site Description
This 114-acre site consists of a forest cover of mixed conifers and hardwoods along a lake at the 1,550-foot elevation. Merrill Lake NRCA is prime habitat for birds of prey, including osprey and bald eagles, and is also home to waterfowl such as bufflehead, common goldeneye, and hooded merganser. A regionally popular catch-and-release fly fishing spot, Merrill Lake has a boat launch for small craft (non-gasoline powered) and a nine-site campground. Spring through fall camping—on a first-come first-served basis—is mostly walk-in from the main parking area, with a few sites accessible by vehicle.

Science, Research and Monitoring
Public and private universities, other research institutions and individual researchers may contact DNR to propose a research project at the site. If you are interested in pursuing research at Merrill Lake NRCA, please contact David Wilderman, natural areas ecologist, at david.wilderman@dnr.wa.gov.

Environmental Education and Public Access
A 1 mile nature trail with interpretive signs guides visitors through a centuries old Douglas fir/western hemlock forest. Access includes toilet facilities, campsites, parking and boat launch. For more information, contact the DNR Pacific Cascade Region natural areas manager.

Directions to the Site
From Woodland, take Highway 503 east and travel about 27 miles; before reaching the town of Cougar, turn left onto USFS Road 81 (you’ll see a sign for Merrill Lake and Kalama Horse camp) and travel north about 3.5 miles; the campground access road will be on the left.

A Washington State Discover Pass is required for parking at this site. This funding helps DNR manage these important natural areas across the state.


Photography by Noel Johnson - Click to enlarge.

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