East County fisherman and recreational boaters have a new launch to use for small vessels.
Preacher Slough Road, just outside Montesano off State Route 107, was closed for part of January to accommodate construction of the new boat ramp, which was recently completed by Kamin Excavation of Shelton.
The recreational area — which includes a parking area, trail head and interpretive nature trail and now the boat ramp — is managed by the Department of Natural Resources. The construction project is located within the DNR-managed Chehalis River Surge Plain Natural Area Preserve.
The Preachers Slough Road project improves existing public access to the Chehalis River in the natural area preserve. The new site will help protect water quality and nearby wildlife habitat from damaging impacts. It will also improve the user experience at the site.
Funding for the project comes from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which is a state grant program managed by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office.
The new ramp will be suitable for small boats, canoes and kayaks.
“It’s not a launch for motorized boats or backing in a trailer,” said Birdie Davenport, natural areas manager for the Chehalis River Surge Plain. “It’s a launch for boats that might fit on a car top — canoes, kayaks or small boats — anything you can carry.”
The agency opted to make this a small-boat launch for multiple reasons, she said.
One is that there are existing motorized launches in the area, including one in Cosmopolis, the Mary’s River boat launch and one at Friends landing.
“Those launches aren’t so great for launching small boats when you don’t want to be in the middle of all those motorized boats,” Davenport said.
Davenport said the Preachers Slough launch should be ready for use now with another like it planned for Blue Slough in the weeks to come.
“The one at Blue Slough is not yet built,” Davenport said. “We had to re-engineer it so we could safely build it. They should get started on it this week.” Davenport said that project should take about a month to complete because the contractor is also building a new parking lot at Blue Slough.
The new boat ramp is part of a three-year project to improve public access and habitat in the area. In May 2013, the department did road maintenance and made repairs to the parking area.
At Preachers Slough, the department also built — with assistance from a state Department of Ecology and Washington Conservation Corps crew — most of a 1,900-foot shoreline trail that leads from the parking area to fishing spots along the river bank.
Overall, the entire project will cost just over $250,000, said Davenport.