Hanford Reach

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 What:  Mountain biking trails, hiking, andkayaking/canoeing. There is an old highway here that can be used even in bad weather to scout around. There are trails high in the bluffs, and low down by the river. If there is snow in Spokane and you really want to ride that new bike, there is rarely snow here. Besure to check out these sites! Columbia RiverExhibition of History, Science, and Technology   Partnership for Arid LandsStewardship Also read this interesting article.

The Hanford Reach of the Columbia River is located in south central Washington state. It begins at the foot of the Priest Rapids Dam and extends 51 miles to the slack waters of McNary Dam, just north of the City of Richland. The Reach is the only free flowing, non-tidal stretch of the Columbia River in the U.S. It flows through a spectacular landscape of towering cliffs, shifting sand dunes and sweeping vistas across an arid shrub-steppe. As the rest of the Columbia River and Eastern Washington's shrub-steppe ecosystem were lost to development, the Hanford Reach has survived intact as an accidentalby-product of the security requirements of the Department of Energy's Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The Hanford Site is a relatively large, undisturbed area of shrub-steppe that contains numerous plant and animal species adapted to the region's semiarid environment. The vegetation mosaic of the Site consists of ten major plant communities: 1)sagebrush/blue bunch ffff99grass, 2) sagebrush/cheatgrass or sagebrush/Sandberg's bluegrass,3) sagebrush-bitterbrush/cheatgrass, 4) grease wood/cheatgrass-saltgrass, 5)winterfat/Sandberg's bluegrass, 6) thyme buckffff99/Sandberg's bluegrass, 7)cheatgrass-tumble mustard, 8) willow or riparian, 9) spiny hopsage, and 10) sand dunes (Cushing 1994). Nearly 600 species of plants have been identified on the Hanford Site (Sackschewsky et al. 1992). Cheat grass is the dominant plant on old fields that were cultivated approximately 50 years ago.

More than 300 species of terrestrial and aquatic insects, 12 species of reptiles and amphibians, 44 species of fish, 187 species of birds, and 39 species of mammals have been found on the Hanford Site (Cushing 1994). Deer and elk are the major large mammals on the Site; coyotes are plentiful, and the Great Basin pocket mouse is the most abundant mammal. Waterfowl are numerous on the Columbia River, and the bald eagle is a regular winter visitor along the river. Salmon and steelhead are the fish species of most interest tosport fishermen and Native American tribal members.

There are two types of natural aquatic habitats on the Hanford Site; one is the Columbia River, and the other is provided by the small spring-streams and seeps located mainly on the ALE Reserve in the Rattlesnake Hills. These include Rattlesnake Springs, Dry Creek, Snively Springs, and West Lake, a small, natural pond near the 200 Areas. Several artificial water bodies, both ponds and ditches, have been formed as a result ofwaste-water disposal practices associated with the operation of the reactors and separation facilities; these water bodies form established aquatic ecosystems completewith representative flora and fauna (Emery and McShane 1980). 

 Where:  From Spokane go towards Tri-cities on 395 until you can exit into the small town of Eltopia. Take the Eltopia West road to Matthews Corner and take a right turn there onto Taylor-Flats and go north there until you meet the Eltopia-Ringold road and go left there. Stay close to the river. Upon reaching orchards begin to look for a road to the left marked as to Ringold. Take that road down to the river and take a right turn at the river which enters you into the Wahluke Wilderness area. You will see a hatchery on the left and lots of watercress growing wild on a natural spring on the right. Continue on through a sometimes bumpy road for a full ten miles until you see a sign indicating no more advancing by motorized vehicles. Now you begin paddling or biking or hiking. You could go 50 miles up to Priest Rapids if you want, but I have only stayed within about ten miles and found lots of interesting things to explore. If yourun into Basin City you have missed the Ringold turnoff.

 Cautions:  I would get a copy of the Delorme Washington State Atlas and Gazeteer if you don't have one as it makes this trip easier. Major stickers here could easily flatten all your tires immediately if you don't watch out, bring co2, have heavy duty tubes, etc. Severe chilling winds in winter.

 List:  Water, binoculars, picnic, and in summer swimming suit. Email Us