Merrill Lake Conservation Area

Color photo of Merill Lake Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA)
Recreation Alert – Due to winter storm damage to the access road to Merrill Lake and the Day Use Area, Merrill Lake is closed to all access until further notice for public safety. We will post updates as they occur. 
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.
Features Protected: Old-growth forest, mid-elevation lake, Cascade torrent salamander, osprey, bald eagle
Ecoregion:  West Cascades (Cowlitz County) 

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  

Environmental Education and Public Access 

Low-impact Recreation Sites
Merrill Lake Campground
Recreation alert: Merrill Lake Campground, as well as the day use area and boat launch, is closed for the season.
Merrill Lake Campground has a 1-mile nature trail with interpretive signs in an old Douglas fir/western hemlock forest. Campground includes toilet facilities, campsites, parking and boat launch. Merrill Lake is a catch-and-release fly-fishing lake. For more information, contact the DNR Pacific Cascade Region natural areas manager. A map of the campground can be found here.
  • Dogs allowed on leash. 
  • Garbage service is not provided. Pack out what you pack in. 
  • Enjoy campfires in approved fire pits in designated campgrounds only. Check for burn bans
  • Don't Move Firewood: Help protect Pacific Northwest forests by preventing the spread of invasive species. Firewood can carry insects and diseases that can threaten the health of our western forests. Please purchase firewood near your campsite. Find more information here.

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.