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Coulee Corridor

Follow the paths of ancient floods on a journey of discovery

Spanning around 150 miles from the town of Connell up to Omak, Eastern Washington’s Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway is a picturesque expanse of varied landscape that follows the Columbia River’s prehistoric flood path. The corridor gets its name from coulees, channels that emerged from post-glacial floods, which are found throughout the expansive landscape.

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Williamborg

Connel to Moses Lake

Many travelers start their explorations of the corridor in Connel, a small historic community dating back to 1883. From Connel, it’s a short drive up to the town of Moses Lake, certainly worth a stopover for its numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation, ranging from a nine-hole golf course to several hikes. Boaters won’t want to miss the Moses Lake Water Trail, which traverses the town’s 18-mile-long namesake. Other local highlights include the mineral-rich Soap Lake, a two-mile-long body of water that  is believed to have therapeutic benefits.

In addition, Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park is a great place to go birding or exploring. Along with more than 15 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking, two horseshoe pits and an amphitheater, there are also two boat ramps and plenty of opportunities for boating, swimming and fishing.

Banks Lake, Coulee Dam and Beyond

Just north of Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park is Banks Lake, a large expanse of freshwater that’s home to bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass and rainbow trout. Highway 155 runs up the lake’s eastern shores, passing by the Banks Lake Wildlife Recreation Areas and continuing up to Steamboat Rock State Park. This 3,522-acre park features a 600-acre basalt columnar along with 13.1 miles of multi-use hiking and biking trails and seven boat ramps. While the park peaks in popularity during the summer months, plenty of people come here in cooler months to go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and even ice climbing.

A short drive northeast along Highway 155 leads to Grand Coulee Dam, a gravity dam with a small visitors center that details the history and engineering behind the structure. The dam also runs 50-minute guided tours every day from April 1 through October 31, which takes visitors out to the dam’s Pump Generating Plant. If you’re visiting during summer, don’t miss the free, half-hour long narrated laser light show onto the dam titled One River, Many Voices. It runs every night from Memorial Day Weekend through the end of September. During the show, colorful lasers dance across the dam’s surface, creating moving images that tell the story of the region.

The Grand Coulee Dam sits at the edge of the Colville Reservation, with points of interests including the Colville Tribal Museum right at Coulee Dam. Just across from the dam, the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area features plenty of opportunities to fish, boat, hunt and swim right in Lake Roosevelt, a 124-square-mile body of water that was created in 1941 as a result of the Grand Coulee Dam.

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David Brodbeck

Coulee History

Educational attractions in the area include Fort Spokane, located on what was once a gathering place for the nomadic tribes indigenous to the area. The fort itself was established in 1880 to protect trading and settlements in the area before being transformed into a boarding school and hospital for local Native people.

Today, the Visitor Center and Museum features exhibits on natural history, military life and tribal life in the area, plus a short interpretive film. You can also pick up boat-launch permits, books, DVDs and NPS passes here.

Standing within the Roosevelt National Recreation Area is St. Paul’s Mission, originally established in 1847 in an effort to convert Native people to Christianity. It remained operational to varying extents until 1875 before finally being abandoned. In 1939 it was restored, and the simple wooden building stands in the recreational area to this day.

 The Northern Coulee Corridor

A 15-mile drive north along the 155 leads to Nespelem, a tiny town established in the 19th century by Cheif Kamiakin, a tribal leader who commanded tribes in the Yakima Native American War of 1855. The Colville Tribal Cultural Center is located here, and there’s a historic Nez Perce cemetery in the town where Chief Joseph, arguably the best-known historic tribal leader in the Pacific Northwest, is buried.

A 35-mile drive along the highway leads to Omak, a small city at the base of the Okanagan Highlands. A popular spot for outdoor recreation throughout the year, this region offers plenty of opportunities hike, swim and fish in the summertime and snowmobile, ski or snow tube during the winter months. The city is also home to 12 Tribes Casino and Resort, a casino/hotel with two restaurants, a sweet shop and a luxury spa. Omak also hosts a number of annual activities, including the Omak Stampede that features rodeos, parades and a carnival.

For More Information

Coulee Corridor Consortium

509-634-1608

www.couleecorridor.com

 

Washington State Tourism

800-544-1800

www.experiencewa.com