Central Washington Road Trip

Pacific Northwest Road Trips Series:
Central Washington Road Trip via Highway 28 – Wenatchee to Soap Lakes

Central Washington is a delightful region of natural contrasts. The largest river west of the Mississippi and numerous lakes create a vivid contrast with high desert and bleak canyons. Witness a diversity of agriculture – from vast acres of dry land wheat to green hillsides of apples, pears and vineyards. On our Central Washington road trip, we  set out from Wenatchee, heading southwest on Hwy 28. This scenic stretch of road along the Columbia River and past Rock Island State park brought us to a scenic stretch on the river, Crescent Bar. Crescent Bar Resort is a sun-drenched vacation destination perfect for golf, tennis, fishing, boating, jet and water skiing. Heading east, we passed through the colorful farm towns of Quincy, Ephrata and Soap Lakes. Soap Lake’s name is reputed to come from the word “smokiam,” an Indian term which translates to “Healing Waters.” For those used to travelling busy interstates, this stretch of the journey is a bit of a trip back in time, as the highway winds through the historic town centers of these distinctive communities.

Dry Falls

Dry Falls

Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway – Soap Lakes to Coulee City

The next leg of our Central Washington road trip leads North on Hwy 17 (the Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway). Here is another spectacular stretch of road through lake country: Soap Lake, Lenore Lake, Alkali Lake, Blue Lake, and Sun Lakes. Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park has much to offer–camping, golf, swimming and boat rentals. These peaceful lakes set against the stark desert landscape offer stunning visual drama.

Before returning westward onto Hwy 2, we stopped at the Dry Falls overlook. At five times the width of Niagara, Dry Falls is considered to be the largest known waterfall in history. Geologists, using sophisticated scientific models, describe a time at the end of the last ice age, when catastrophic torrents moving 65 miles per hour ripped through the Upper Grand Coulee and over this 400-foot rock. The cataclysmic flood was unleashed by the collapse of an ancient ice dam which had contained a vast inland sea known as Lake Missoula, in what is now western Montana.

Central Washington Road Trip

Highway 2 – Coulee City to
Wenatchee and the Douglas General Store

Wide, golden wheat fields with the occasional church spire, country school, or farm house flowed steadily past us  until the road  dipped abruptly to accommodate a creek crossing. The historic farm community of Douglas suddenly presented itself. A long row of weathered rural mailboxes and the historic Douglas General Store greeted us as we came to a stop. A large collection of antique farm equipment adorns the old store’s grounds. Store owners Lee and Sandi Nelson welcomed us warmly and gave us an intriguing tour and history of the store, founded in 1904. Here one can enjoy a leisurely stroll through the gardens,  the antique shop and up to the historic church a couple blocks away. The property also includes a small RV park with full hookups. For some great history about the town of Douglas, check out this article from: HistoryLink.org.

Leaving Douglas, Hwy. 2 took us to Waterville, the county seat of Douglas County. Today, the one hundred year old Waterville commercial district, the Waterville Hotel and Nifty theatre are listed on the National Register of Historic places. The stately brick courthouse, built in 1905 is still in use today and listed on the State Historic Register. It replaced the original wood frame courthouse built in 1889. Continuing west on Highway 2 leads the traveler back to the Columbia River past orchards and fruit stands to Orondo. A few short miles farther and over the Columbia River we are back to Wenatchee. This entire north central Washington road trip is under 150 miles and is easily driven in four hours. With so much to see and do in this region of the Pacific Northwest, we made a whole, glorious day of it.

For More Information:

For more information about the history of the community of Douglas, check out the Douglas County PUD website.

Anyone with vintage farm equipment to donate may contact:

Douglas Community Historical Association, PO Box 822, Waterville, WA 98858.
If you are interested in staying at the RV Park in Douglas, contact Lee or Sandy Nelson at sandi.lee.n@att.net or 15391 US Hwy 2, Waterville, WA 98858

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