East of the Cascade range, the state of Washington is very dry. If you haven’t visited, what you see in your mind’s eye when you hear “Washington” is NOT what the eastern part of this state looks like!
Heading south from Wenatchee, we traveled roads that hugged the banks of the Columbia River for many, many miles. Orchards heavy with apples and pears lined both sides of the road, surrounded by dry brown scrub on massive, barren hillsides. Brilliant green grass flagged riverside parks. Above it all, giant erector set towers carried popping, crackling transmission wires from the many dams of the Columbia river to the Northwest’s power grid. Small fishing boats floated tranquilly. All hail the mighty Columbia!
By early afternoon, we settled into a shady site at Plymouth Park (click here to read our review and see photos), a Corps of Engineers campground in the very tiny town of Plymouth, Washington, adjacent to the Columbia River where I-82 crosses from Washington to Oregon. Planned as a one-night stop, we walked back to the entry booth in the cool shade of evening to pay for another night’s stay… it was that nice and, with a Golden Age Pass, the price was great.
Our friends Nickie and Jimmy tipped us off to Plymouth Park when they had stayed here a week earlier. Avid walkers and hikers, they suggested visiting McNary Dam to walk the nature trails there, so that is what we did on our “extra” day.
The main visitor center at McNary Dam is on the Oregon side of the river, a 15 minute drive from the campground. The Pacific Salmon Visitor Center is all about fish, the fish ladders at the dam, and how the fish are tagged, clipped and tracked going and coming. We watched a few fish come through the viewing windows, but there wasn’t much action. The visitor center itself was almost deserted this time of year - we saw one family and zero staff. We pulled a trail map out of the brochure rack and set off to explore the grounds.
Wow! Acres and acres of thick, lush, green grass transform the riverbank into an oasis. Wooden platforms offer expansive views of the huge dam, the locks, and the totally brown, barren hillsides and cliffs of the Washington State side of the river. The benefit and importance of the life-giving irrigation could not be more apparent.
We followed the trails along the bank, through woodlands, wetlands, and past 15 foot high blackberry brambles heavy with fruit. By the time we finished our walk, the sun was high in the sky, with temperatures headed to the upper 80’s; sweat trickled down my neck.
Back at camp, I moved my lounger into the shade, snagged my Kindle and an iced tea, and spent the remainder of the afternoon reading, observing birds and bugs, watching the neighbors’ activities, and snoozing now and then. A great day along the mighty river of the Pacific Northwest.