The Slavin Conservation Area covers 628 acres of Ponderosa forest, rolling meadows, marshes and a lengthy pond much treasured by waterfowl. The site of the pond and wetlands was in fact farmland for most of the past century, drained by early settlers (you won’t find the pond on the older USGS maps), and now restored to provide wildlife habitat. The trail circumnavigates most of the lake, but skips the last quarter due to heavy flooding. Instead, it loops back through fir and pine forest in a figure-eight loop and climbs the bluffs along the eastern shore for a bird’s eye view of the area.
|Rating||2.9 out of 5|
|Duration||1:48 hours moving time (hiking)|
|Elevation Gain||124 feet|
|High Point||2,422 feet (bluffs overlooking pond)|
|Low Point||2,324 feet (pond)|
|Trailbed||Packed dirt, old logging roads|
|Water||Recommend against filtering water from pond due to agricultural runoff|
|Conditions||Generally excellent, but flooded and muddy in many places. Likely not a problem during summer months|
|Maps||USGS Spokane SW|
|Trailhead||Take I-90 exit #279 for US-195 S (Colfax/Pullman) and follow 195 for 9.5 miles. Turn right onto E Washington Road, a gravel road. You’ll end up at the trailhead after half a mile, at the intersection of Washington and Keeney Roads (slightly to the right).
Google Directions (47.53703, -117.412493)
|Squirrel Density||Dogs must be leashed|
|Features||Lake, Grove, Meadow|
|Date||May 14, 2017|
The trail starts out by crossing a broad level meadow and leads right up to the edge of the pond at the half-mile mark. Near the pond the trail is soggy and flooded in many places and muddy elsewhere, at least in spring. At the pond you get to meet the local bird population, which is rather extensive and exceedingly vocal and likes to cling to last year’s dried-up cattail stalks.
The trail hugs the lake’s shore going south, and was flooded. Luckily, a secondary trail (single track) moves up into the light forest and parallels the lake at a save (that is, dry) distance.
During this time of spring the forest floor is sprouting all kinds of wild flowers, most prominently arrowleaf balsam root. The trail climbs a small knoll, descends on the other side and crosses a grassy meadow sprinkled with sprawling trees. Occasionally the path meets up with other trails, but you really can’t go wrong; when in doubt simply bear right.
As you come to a pretty stand of aspen near the lake, the trail starts to veer away from the pond and heads towards the upper, smaller pond, also teeming with birds. After crossing a low dam at the 1.5-mile mark, the trail curls around the southern end of the main pond and heads north, this time a bit higher and thus mostly on dry ground. The trail leads to the far end of the pond, entering in and out of open pine forest, and providing ample views of the pond and the opposite side.
About 2.8-miles into the hike the trail moves along a fence line which was completely flooded. In fact, a family of geese enjoyed that area very much. During the summer months you can probably follow the fence and hike around the northern end of the lake back to the trailhead, thereby reducing this to a 3-mile loop; however, during the rainy season it’s time to turn back and around the 3-mile mark you’ll come upon a fork. Take a right for a pretty walk in the woods towards the edges of the conservation area.
Just before the 4-mile mark the trail once again meets up with the outbound trail. Then it’s back across the dam and on the eastern shore onto a wider trail that leads slightly uphill through the forest. Shortly it turns northbound and meets up once again with the outbound trail, but almost immediately a single-track branches off to the right and climbs the low bluffs overlooking the pond. Follow this trail, making sure to remain on the single-track as it bisects a wider trail.
The single-track contours along the edge of the bluff and offers nice views. It also features a pretty meadow, stocked with ground squirrels, and interesting rock formations. A little past the 5-mile mark the trail descends through light forest, crosses a grassy meadow and a gravel trail, then re-enters the woods. In short order you’ll end up on a wide double-track that pierces a dense aspen thicket and leads to the parking lot.
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