Wander Wallula Gap for wild and scenic views

  • By Terry Richard The Oregonian
  • Friday, June 13, 2014 12:50pm
  • Life

KENNEWICK — If you love the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area for dramatic vistas, you’ll love Wallula Gap just as much.

The Wallula Gap isn’t nearly as well known as the designated national scenic area around Hood River, Ore., but the gap that the Columbia River flows through just south of the Tri-Cities has its own quality of beauty.

Wallula Gap is a recognized National Natural Landmark, same as Crown Point in the Columbia River Gorge east of Portland. The gap is a narrow constriction of the Columbia, just north of the Oregon border where the great river makes its last southern run, then swings west to complete its journey to the Pacific.

Find the gap by driving Highway 397 southeast of Kennewick to Finley, a Benton County farm town just up the bench from the Columbia River.

From Finley, keep going southeast on county roads, staying as close as you can to the river. It’s less complicated to follow on the ground than to describe in words. Eventually, the road ends. Park, get out and walk south up to the clifftop for a view of the river from the top.

The public land is a mix of federal, state, county and municipal, but stay off the railroad tracks and don’t enter fenced private lands. This is open country, with no trails. While the cross-country walking can be easy, there are also some very steep slopes to avoid.

It’s open country and you can pick your own route. A description of the hike is on the website hiketricities.com. The twin rock formations, across the river from the top of the gap, are Two Sisters Rocks.

That’s Lake Wallula down below, the reservoir behind McNary Dam. When the ice age floods inundated this part of Washington, the waters backed up at the gap and flooded what became the Tri-Cities with 400 feet of water. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.

The views from atop the gap can be stunningly beautiful, no matter when you visit, but remember that this is a very windy spot.

There is no road that goes through the gap on the river’s west side, though the railroad that carries Amtrak from Portland to Spokane runs on that side. U.S. 730 and U.S. 12 run on the east side, which are the main route between Portland and Walla Walla. The gap starts just to the south from where the Walla Walla River enters the Columbia.

More in Life

‘Last Jedi’ is the best ‘Star Wars’ movie since the first one

This instant-classic popcorn movie makes clever references to the past while embracing the new.

Jesse Sykes brings her evolving sounds to Cafe Zippy in Everett

She and Phil Wandscher make a return trip to a club that she values for its intimacy.

Red wine usually costs more, but you can still find bargains

Here are five good-quality reds that won’t drain your grocery budget.

Beer of the Week: Skull Splitter and Blood of My Enemies

Aesir Meadery of Everett and Whiskey Ridge Brewing of Arlington collaborated to make two braggots.

Beer, wine, spirits: Snohomish County booze calendar

Ugly Sweater Party and Canned Food Drive at Whitewall: Marysville’s Whitewall Brewing… Continue reading

Student winners to perform concertos with Mukilteo orchestra

This annual show is a partnership with the Snohomish County Music Teachers Association.

‘Ferdinand’ a modern take on the beloved children’s story

The lovable bull is back in an enjoyable but spotty animated film from the makers of “Ice Age.”

Playwright alleges misconduct by Hoffman when she was 16

A classmate of Dustin Hoffman’s daughter says the actor exposed himself in 1980.

Art mimicks reality in engrosing ‘On the Beach at Night Alone’

The Korean film tells the story of an actress recovering from an affair with a married director.

Most Read