This is Dusty Lake, the southern coulee in the Potholes Coulee complex. After the native Sinkiuse tribe was removed from their land in 1871, it likely sat vacant until the Coffin-Babcock Land and Livestock Company claimed it in the late 1910s.
This company was formed in 1905 (the year when the camera I used for this photo was made) between the Coffin Brothers from Yakima and W.H. Babcock from Walla Walla. They set up some sort of headquarters in the town of Trinidad, located ten or so miles north of Ancient Lake. Though their focus was in timber, it seems that they raised sheep within the coulee itself, though even that’s uncertain.
Ancient Lake Coulee is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. And though it’s being visited by more hikers and equestrians in recent years, it’s still desolate. Even on warm weekends, it’ll be rare to see another person outside of a parking lot or trailhead.
By the 1960s, the land was public. Coffin-Babcock didn’t seem to last long. By 1911, they were selling off large tracts of land. It’s unclear when Ancient Lake was acquired by the state, but by the 1920s, the lakes themselves were open to anyone.
The value of public land – land owned by all of us – cannot be overstated. Whether maintained by the city, county, state or federal governments, we the people have open access to explore and enjoy the beautiful land around us.
‘Friendless Dare the Walls’
Camera: Crown Graphic (1962)
Lens: 127mm f/4.7 Rodenstock Ysarex
Film: Artista Ultra Edu 100
Process: Rodinal; 1+50; 7min
Dusty Lake, Potholes Coulee, Grant County, Washington