The McKenzie Conservation Area is located along the northwestern shore of Newman Lake in eastern Spokane County. The area is administered by the Spokane County Parks and Recreation Department and became a Spokane County Conservation Futures (https://www.spokanecounty.org/1592/Conservation-Futures) property in 2005. In 2015, an addition of 41 acres was purchased by the county to total 462 acres.
The site is located at the base of Mount Spokane within the southern portion of the Selkirk mountains. The area contains rocky outcrops and ridges that allow for scenic views of Mount Spokane and Ragged Ridge to the north and northeast. Glimpses of the Spokane Valley and Idaho’s Mica Peak can be seen to the south. The bedrock geology is comprised of metamorphosed granitic rock known as the Newman Lake Gneiss. Soils are relatively thin and poorly developed except for in the wetland bottoms.
This area exhibits a mixed conifer forest with western red cedar, western larch, western white pine, Douglas fir, western hemlock, grand fir, lodgepole pine, and ponderosa pine. In the lowlands adjacent Newman Lake, wetlands are ringed by groves of deciduous cottonwood and aspen. Alder and birch can also be seen throughout the property. There are also two seasonal streams and springs that feed the wetlands from the north and west. This unique ecosystem hosts a diverse population of wildflowers, orchids, daisies, and other plants.
The property is also habitat for bald eagles and osprey, as some nests have been found both in and around the area. From spring through fall, many other species of birds can be seen. Wildlife of the area include moose, elk, white-tailed deer, coyote, and black bear, and the wetlands are home to painted turtles and frogs as well.
In the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, logging of the forest around Newman Lake, including the McKenzie property, was the major resource industry. Timber harvesting continued sporadically through the 1980’s. As recently as 2000, tree thinning was done at the McKenzie property. Through the early to mid- 1900’s, the property and much of the adjacent land was owned by J.W. Hancox (grandfather of Linda McKenzie) as part of the Hancox estate. Old apple trees and other signs of habitation suggest that the site was actually once a homestead.
Alfred McKenzie (Linda’s husband), who the conservation area is named after, started purchasing parcels in an attempt to piece the family estate back together. In the 1990’s, McKenzie built a small boathouse adjacent the lake near Turtle Rock. Alfred McKenzie died in 1997 and his heirs ultimately sold the property to Spokane County in 2005 when it became the current conservation futures area.
In 2015, an additional 41 acres was purchased from the Pettibone family and incorporated into the McKenzie Conservation Area. This area with the “Vision Quest” trail, is west of West Newman Lake Drive and is the site of the old homestead of Joe Engeser around 1900.