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Spokane to Collins House

  • Distance: 99 miles
  • Routes: SR 195
  • Estimated Driving Time: 2 hours

When the first settlers arrived, they found the entire region covered with lush bunchgrass, waist high in places. Here Indian bands hunted, dug roots, and pastured their ponies. Quick to recognize the productivity of the soil, the newcomers staked claims, strung miles of barbed-wire fences, and set to work breaking the sod, in the meantime turning their cattle out on the range to fatten. Within a few years, thousands of acres had been planted to wheat and were producing exceptional yields.

Wheat continues to be the chief crop of the region. In the spring the entire countryside, seen from an eminence, is a checkerboard of green fields and dark brown squares of fallow land. Vagrant winds sweep over the hills toward the horizon, billowing the maturing grain like the waves of a heavy sea. By midsummer the wheat has ripened. Then the combines come, most of them tractor-operated, but a few still drawn by many teams of horses. Cutting wide swathes as they swing around the fields, they leave in their wake small piles of golden straw and dun-colored sacks of wheat. Seldom is a crop failure known, for the rainfall, although rarely more than 20 inches, comes in the fall and winter months when it is most needed, while the harvest months are almost always rainless.

The basis, however, for the productivity of this region is the soil. The top layer, averaging 10 to 12 inches, is rich brown silt, often exceedingly dark because of its humus content. Next is a lighter brown layer 30 to 40 inches deep. A third layer, from 50 to 75 feet in depth, is hardened light-yellow silt, or loess, which was deposited many thousands of years ago in lake bottoms. Apparently, all three are of the same material, differing only in hardness and in humus content. These layers rest upon a fourth layer of granite or basalt with no intervening material. For a long time geologists have puzzled over the mystery of how this Palouse soil was formed. One explanation was that the soil was decayed basalt. Today, opinion leans toward the theory that it was formed in the Pleistocene age by the depositing of wind-borne dust blown from arid to more humid regions, where it stuck. Whatever the origin of the famous Palouse, there can be no question as to the part it has played in the development of this section, nor about the urgency of checking the disastrous erosion which has already wrought great damage.

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The major city of the Inland Empire of Washington, Spokane sits at the falls of the Spokane River 90 miles south of the Canadian boundary in central Spokane County. Settlement began in 1871, and the town was originally platted in 1881 as Spokane Falls, but was reincorporated in 1890 as Spokane. The name has two possible origins: One is that it came from the Indians who formerly lived in a...

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Points of Interest
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Browne’s Addition Historic District

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The Ninth Avenue Historic District

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The Marycliff-Cliff Park District

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Rockwood Historic District

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West Downtown Historic Transportation Corridor

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East Downtown Historic District

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Peaceful Valley Historic District

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Riverside Avenue Historic District

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Nettleton’s Addition Historic District

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Desmet Avenue Warehouse Historic District

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Mission Avenue Historic District

Clustered along the creek were once several pleasantly shaded frame houses; surrounding them were small orchards, pasture lots, and truck gardens, many of them owned by Chinese and Japanese. This district was distinctly suburban in character and seemed isolated from the residences of Spokane proper, which cling to the rim of the canyon, their terraced lawns creeping timidly a short distance down the precipitous sides. Latah Creek was known as...

Learn more about Latah Creek

The Latah formation has had an interesting geologic history. Floods of lava advancing over the Columbia Plateau were checked by a line of hills near the present site of Spokane. Unable to enter the valleys to the east, the lava flowed south, thus damming their drainage. In time layers of clay and shale to a depth of some 1,500 feet accumulated on the bedrock of the lakes formed in the...

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Mile: 90

Sidetrip: Rockford

Mile: 82

This 100-mile-route takes you through several small towns featuring distinctive historic buildings, including a bank by famed Eastern Washington architects Cutter and Malmgren, a brick schoolhouse and community center-turned-event venue, and a well-preserved 1886 Queen Anne-style home.

Take the Rockford side trip

One of the oldest Euro-American settlements in the Inland Empire, once a village of weatherstained houses clustered about a few brick buildings. The first house built in the vicinity was erected in 1862 and for years served as a stopping place on the Mullan Road, which ran from Fort Benton, Montana to Fort Walla Walla before white settlement arrived. The Native American name was N-soy-akin, meaning crawfish. The first permanent...

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Founded in 1879 and named Rock Creek. When a post office was established in the home of an early homesteader, Robert Patterson, he suggested this Spanish name based on the flat open character of the valley. A score of frame buildings once straggled along the highway and railroad track. Dominating the village were several wheat warehouses and a large grain elevator. In late summer trucks piled high with sacks of...

Learn more about Plaza

In the narrow valley of Pine Creek, a self-sufficient modern town, is the marketing and servicing center for a prosperous farming area. Numerous stores, cafes, garages, and other business structures flank the main street from which side streets, bordered with locust, maple, and poplar trees, lead eastward to the residential part of town.

Learn more about Rosalia
Points of Interest
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Texaco Gas Station

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Steptoe Battlefield Site

In 1915, the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad completed a reinforced concrete arch viaduct. The viaduct replaced a temporary 2,177-foot frame trestle that was expeditiously erected in 1907 by the railroad to complete its transcontinental line across the state of Washington rapidly. A contemporary article in the Railway Age Gazette observed that a concrete design was selected for the permanent structure because “the site was one where considerations of...

Learn more about Rosalia Railroad Bridge

Sidetrip: Inland Empire

A 45-mile loop through a variety of towns and featuring interesting structures—including a rare, well-preserved, pioneer-era log cabin, a flour mill, a city hall, and the home of historically notable state politician, Robert Crampton McCroskey—that eventually reconnects with the main tour.

Take the Inland Empire side trip

A trading center for farmers, Steptoe lies on the floor of a wide valley. During harvest season trucks and wagons, piled high with sacks of grain, lumbered into town to unload at the warehouses and elevator along the tracks, where boxcars stood on the sidings. It was named for Lieut. Col. Edward J. Steptoe, U.S. Army, who suffered reverses in a Native American battle on May 17, 1858, near Rosalia...

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Sidetrip: Dusty

Mile: 39

  This 86-mile route guides you through an area of large farms, usually planted to wheat. At widely spaced intervals are farmhouses, flanked by huge barns. Long steep grades, sweeping curves, and stretches of level road mark the route.

Take the Dusty side trip

Seat of Whitman County, the town spreads along both sides of the Palouse River. Hemming in the town are rounded hills. Main Street, nearly a mile in length, parallels the river, which occasionally goes on a rampage, when the spring runoff is exceptionally rapid, and floods the lower levels of the town. Colfax is an old town with a vigorous past. When the ban against settlement in this region was...

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Points of Interest
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Colfax Main Street Historic District

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Kramlich Barn

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Mackleit Farm

Mile: 38

Sidetrip: Palouse

This 32-mile trip takes you to two waypoints, one of which is the historically rich town of Palouse, once a farming and trade center with many pioneer-era buildings still a part of the community.

Take the Palouse side trip

Home of the Washington State University, and a commercial, grain storage, and shipping center, lies on the eastern edge of the wheat belt, only six miles west of the Idaho Line. On three sides of the town are the fertile, treeless hills of the Palouse, and on the east, beyond a rolling plain, are the forested foothills of the Moscow Mountains. Flowing through the town in a northwesterly direction is...

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Points of Interest
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Washington State University

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E. A. Bryan Hall

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College Hall

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Albert W. Thompson Hall

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Rogers Field and Athletic Plant

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The State Farm

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College Hill Historic District

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Star Route and Palouse Street Brick Road

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Hutchison Studio

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Pullman Post Office

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Cordova Theater

The town so nearly resembles Colton that the two have been called sister towns. Platted in 1879, many of Uniontown’s first settlers were of German or Swiss descent. Notable buildings in this farming community include the National Register-listed St. Boniface Church (1905) on 206 St. Boniface St. and the Dahmen Barn. Built in 1934 as a dairy barn, the structure has been rehabilitated into artist studios and a gallery/shop. It...

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Mile: 5

The Ruddy Collins House is believed to be the oldest house still standing in Whitman County, and one of the oldest buildings in southeastern Washington, built in 1870–71. It is located just inside the Washington state line at the head of Hatwai Canyon, a natural cleavage that knifes for several miles down to the Clearwater River near its junction with the Snake River at the twin cities of Lewiston, Idaho,...

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