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photos of: Devil's Well geological freak
occurrence, Overview Map:,
South of the lake was Rock Lake City;
Most unique feature to the Indians that lived near it:
water did not freeze no matter how severe the winter.
The lake will freeze in extreme winters, partially, but much less than
other lakes near it.
The indians said that not freezing was because of animals that could be
seen moving below the water surface.
Indians were afraid to take a boat into lake they'd had so many problems
Temperature: Cold water lake (tried to swim there in extremely hot day,
had to jump out asap due to cold)
Length: 7 1/2 miles
Width: 1/2 to 1 mile
Depth: 375 feet in places
Boat launch facilities: only at south end of lake.
Nearby towns: Ewan, Pine City, & St John.
Other lake properties: Water is murky until late summer due to runoff.
Former proposals: Considered making the whole area a part of the state
park system back in 50s.
Waterfalls: Numerous ones in spring all at north end of lake.
Fertile soil: Giant vegetables have been grown here.
Geological Features: About a mile north of the north end of the lake is an
exposure of mica schist which is a very ancient rock and once formed a
hill on the surface before being buried by the lava flows, and now exposed
by erosion of the lava. Blowhole tunnels south of the lake. Devil's Well
near Hole in the Ground. High cliffs around lake. Castle Rock formation.
Rumored Obsidian quarry, but I cannot find this feature though local
farmers say they feel they've seen it, they can't remember where.
Canoeing/Kayaking/small row boat or very small power boat handled
carefully: I don't think the farmers lease gives exclusive rights over the
water so I think it would be okay to paddle south here in the same way as
one goes north to Bonnie Lake, but be very careful upon coming up close
upon the north end of Rock Lake as there are seasonal waterfalls that you
might be going over, so only attempt this if you have boating experience
that would allow this. The value of paddling down to the north of Rock
Lake is that it is very inaccessible by roads due to farms. Most of the
shores of Rock lake are such steep cliffs as to be inaccessible. For that
reason they have been little used for resort purposes, and the paddler
needs to be aware that strong winds get channeled down the lake so be
warned. Also there are lava spears that can rip into your boat, though
recently a rock/soil dam at the south of the lake on Rock Creek, has
raised the lake level about 3 feet lowering the lava spear concern.
The Henderson House: The oldest structure in the Palouse Area, and Whitman
County. Note the
upper story window. It was a mansion compared to Kamiakin's teepee one
half a mile away.
Cave with moonshine still and obsidian vein: located on west side of
lake 1/3 the way up from the south foot. You would either have to boat to
this &/or ask farmer permission. I have not had the time to do this
one, and am only reporting from an old newspaper article.
It is said about this lake by the Indians and others, that this lake
has never given up a single body that it has taken by drowning. Around
1900, the 3 Smith children went ice skating in a terrible storm and all
drown. They were recovered and buried in Rock Lake cemetery.
Train Wreck Mystery: (1908-1915) Several boxcars full of new Model T
Fords are reported as still at bottom of this lake. Divers have so far not
been able to locate them due to lack of exact crash site, but it is
probably near Johnson's beach. Here is a real mystery awaiting divers
desiring a challenge. Many people have verified that it is down there,
though others question this. No
one has been able to find it.
Johnson's Beach: On the east side of the lake about half way up is no
longer accessible as the road has been closed. I had the pleasure of
meeting Mr. Johnson one fine day and he queried me about where I worked
and about my family before giving me permission to go down the hill
through his cattle to the swimming place. He has passed on since this. I
believe his farm has been sold to the Stevens family. This is very near where the
train cars slid into the lake. Some say north some say south.
Chief Ka-mi-akin: (1804-1877) Called the last hero of the Yakima tribe,
this great man's father and mother's story is
incredible. After losing in his Ahtanum gardens, and land in the
Yakima wars, Kamiakin lived for a while in the Tekoa area with other
tribes. After leading all the tribes of the Spokane area against
Colonel Wright and losing eventually, seeing all his warrior friends
that had fought for him buried, he escaped to Canada for 3 years time for
people to forget about him. He then returned to the Kamiakin Crossing area
for a while at what is now called Matlock bridge which crosses the Palouse
River. Pictures of this area follow:
He then returned to the south of Rock lake area and
rode his horses up the Ka-mi-akin creek canyon where Gene Webb road is
now. He farmed on a small level right at the south end of the lake. Thanks to Gene Webb for his input as his wife's grandmother traded
with Ka-mi-akin for blankets on a regular basis. He said she kept trying
to tell us stories about the chief, and now I sure wish I would have
listened better. Kamiakin lived at Rock Lake until April, 1877 when he
died following a decline in his health during the previous winter.
Kamiakin thought some bad corn might have been the cause of sickness. Even
in death he could not find the peace that he had so long sought on the
quiet shores of the lake. In the spring of 1878 a Scientist was traveling through the area looking for
fossils and was shown the location of Kamiakin's grave. He exhumed the
body and removed the head. The family was outraged when they later learned
of the desecration and they reburied the chief's remains in an unmarked
grave across the lake on property later acquired by the Henry Babcock
family. The stolen skull has never been recovered. (From Legendary Shores,
A History of Rock Lake 1996, Class of 2002, St. John Public Schools,
Richard Scheuerman, Teacher-Principal) People will tell you that the original burial site of this
famous chief was behind the Bailey place between the two tall twin trees,
but others say the Hendersons owned that property, and they hated the
Indians so that no Indian would ever even set foot on the property let
alone do a burial there. Some books mention that the burial site was on a
ridge overlooking the lake on the east side of the boat launch area. Then
a year after this burial, the family dug up the grave to do some ceremony
with the body and found it decapitated by a scientist. Now the remaining bones
were moved across, straight across, to the west side and remain there today.
The casket was built by John Eaton and Kamiakin's best buckskins were put
on him. There is a controversy about Kamiakin's first burial site. One
about 1/2 mile from Rock Lake southend towards Ewan, and the other just
east of the south end of the lake. After a scientist stole the head of
Kamiakin out of his grave, the body was reburied by a Medicine Man on the
west side of the lake near a grove of trees, but only the Medicine Man
knew for sure where.
Serpent Monster myths/stories/realities: Mainly that of a serpent that
lives in the lake. First reported by native americans, and then others.
Indians placed a taboo on this lake after warriors consumed by a sea
serpent. Indians have said that once an entire tribe was lashed to
destruction and eaten not may centuries ago , all to satisfy the greed of
this very monster. People falling in have tended to go straight down.
Drownees do not resurface lending credence to monster myths. Chief Spokane
Garry remarked to Governor Stevens of the Washington Territories that this
lake was unique in that you could see animals below the clear
element. Numerous barely submerged rocks along the shores, which
should be watched by canoe paddlers especially, could explain some of the
sea serpent stories. The lake is not fished as much as other lakes, but
has great potential as it has shown strange fish populations, large fish,
etc. Some contend that the only monsters on the lakes are giant Sturgeon
that have somehow got into the lake. The Palouse News once reported a
story from J.C. Cady, who said he had found a plausible answer to the
mystery of the serpent. Cady said he was walking on the shore of the lake
one day when he noticed a commotion in the water and saw what looked like
a large animal swimming just beneath the surface. Luckily he was armed
with a rifle, so he felt confident to stand his ground at this terrifying
sight. The commotion kept coming closer and closer to where he was
standing. "At last it dawned on me. Only a few feet away and directly
below me was a solid column of suckers (fish). The column was as large
around as a man's body and about ten feet long. Each sucker was standing
straight up in the water [I wish I knew what was meant by this 'straight
up' phrase]. The top of the column was about a foot below the surface of
the water. After watching this strange phenomenon for a while...I took a
shot with my rifle at the fish. Instantly it broke from its unity into a
thousand fragments, each fragment being a sucker. Had the fish not been so
near the shore that I could see them distinctly I should have been
convinced that the body disturbing the water was the wonderful monster
about which so much had been written. I believe that what I saw solved the
mystery of the Rock Lake sea serpent. Cady may have been satisfied but
stories and sightings have persisted over the years. The Leroy
"Pete" Smith family of St. John, including Pet, his wife Marge,
his mother Mrs. Aaron Smith, son Ken and daughter Linda Burke, go together
with the Gazette to discuss Rock lake and its stories and related some
tales of monster sightings. Marge Smith's mother, the late Mrs. Fred J.
Wagner, told her that the lake was always considered taboo by the Indians.
A story Mrs. Wagner had heard was that three squaws were out in a canoe
when suddenly the bottom fell out of the canoe. The squaws disappeared,
supposedly to the jaws of the monster. "I'm not surprised the squaws
disappeared. The strange part of the story is that the bottom of a canoe
could fall out," Mrs. Smith commented. Marge's father, the late Fred
Wagner, who was "a religious man and wouldn't lie" said he and
his hired man saw what looked like three men in a canoe off shore. They
decided it warranted some investigation and climbed down to take a closer
look. By the time they got down to the lake, the canoe-shape was gone. Two
stories described the monster as looking like a log. Pete Smith is
convinced that the sightings are all Sturgeon sightings. To many the
possibility of a sturgeon in an inland lake is exactly as mysterious as
the idea of a monster.
Shy Rock: On a monotonous road suddenly a rock appears like a crouched
cougar out of nowhere. This rock caused many a horse to rear up, and
killing at least one rider. The school near here was named Shy Rock School
after the rock. The tree is a new comer.
Sawmill: (Active in 1926 at the hole in the ground site/vegetarians
with a vengeance lived there/no longer present)
Rock Lake Post Office:
Considered as alternative for what became the Grand Coulee reservoir:
Roosevelt lake won out over burying this area with water.