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Davenport to Ellensburg

  • Distance: 158 miles
  • Routes: SR 28
  • Estimated Driving time: 3 hours

The tour runs in an east/west direction at an altitude of about 2,400 feet through the fertile wheatlands and the sagebrush barrens of Big Bend Country, so called because of the sweeping curve made by the Columbia River in the central part of the state. Gradually, the highway loses elevation until it crosses the Columbia; then it climbs by a long but fairly easy grade. Throughout the region large, well-cultivated farms alternate with stretches of uninhabited range; at widely spaced intervals small towns, ganglia of settlement, are strung along the highway.

Big Bend Country, a rugged plateau cut by deep coulees and scarred with patches of scab rock, is treeless except for a few willows, quaking aspens, and cottonwoods, which grow beside the shallow lakes and streams. It can be desolate-looking country, particularly in winter, when storms sweep down from the Canadian plains and drive the snow into smudgy hard-packed drifts across the roads. But it has moments of distinctive beauty. Spring transforms the barrenness for a brief season: wild flowers and grass almost overnight cover the hillsides; serviceberry bushes, rooted precariously in rocky promontories, become swaying towers of white blossoms; lupine and sunflowers make a tapestry of blue and gold. Even the dun-colored sage takes on a livelier hue. In summer, purple shadows of late afternoon lie on the bare brown hills; seas of ripening grain are rippled by vagrant breezes; and the multi-colored walls of rocky canyons glow in sharp contrast to the green water of the river below. Autumn brings goldenrod by the wayside, flocks of whistling blackbirds in stubble fields dotted with pyramids of yellow straw, and wild geese, flying wedges in the cloudless evening sky, honking their way southward. Even in winter there is magnificence in the seemingly limitless expanse of snow-covered hills, and in the flaming sunrises that transform the sky with rippling colors.

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This Lincoln County seat, west of Spokane, is wheat country. Precipitation is light, but bountiful crops are the rule, for the moisture, most of which falls between October and April, is retained by deep, rich soil. Soft wheat is best adapted to the soil and the climate; one variety, bluestem, was so popular that a small settlement south of Davenport was named for it.  Davenport was founded in 1881 by...

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Dating from the arrival of the railroads, Harrington was a shipping point for wheat and cattle. It features state and national historic register-listed brick building, Harrington Bank Block and Opera House, an imposing two-story structure designed and built in 1904 out of locally made bricks; the Opera House served as the center of entertainment in the community for four decades. Also find the Lincoln Hotel, a 1902-built single-room occupancy hotel....

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Lincoln Hotel

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Harrington Bank Block and Opera House

Mile: 118

Named for a stagecoach driver who served this area before the railroad came, Mohler consists of grain elevators, a few stores, and widely scattered frame dwellings. Characteristic of the small towns of the region, the schoolhouse, with old-fashioned cupola and bell, sat prominently; but no evidence of this schoolhouse remains today.

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J. M. Newland established this settlement by opening a store here in 1890–91. The store was bought by J. H. Lamona in 1892, who became the town’s namesake. In 1941, it was a nondescript collection of scattered buildings, grain elevators, a water tank for locomotives, and freight cars on the railroad siding, which became the scene of intense activity during the harvest season as grain, piled high on trucks, was...

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Settled in 1886 by German immigrants who came from Russia, this is a wheat town; as of 1941, it shipped some 2,000,000 bushels of wheat annually. It was also the trade and social center of a stock raising area. It continues to celebrate its German Russian heritage with the annual three-day Deutschesfest in September, a tradition that began in 1971 and features German food and music, a parade, arts and...

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The dry lakebed of Crab Lake is one of the many small lakes connected by Crab Creek in the area. These lakes, by serving as reservoirs, prevent Crab Creek from going dry in the summer as do other creeks in this region, though it does disappear underground several times. Crab creek flows from Sylvan Lake just east of Odessa, westward along a narrow valley connecting to the towns of Irby,...

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Mile: 73

This town is just south of the highway along Stratford Road. In 1941, it consisted of a gasoline station, a power substation, and a handful of houses on the flats at the base of high rocky bluffs. The 1912 Stratford School, designed by the Spokane firm of George H. Keith and Harold Whitehouse and located near the crossroads of Stratford Road and Road 23 NE, has a distinctive Tudor Revival...

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Mile: 63

Sidetrip: Adrian

This junction point of the Great Northern Railroad and the Central Washington branch of the Northern Pacific marks the northern reaches of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. This loop covers eight miles, and takes about 10 minutes, bringing you back to the tour.

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The town grew up around Soap Lake, a mineralized lake—southernmost in a string of lakes along Grand Coulee—whose contents froth up in the wind like soap suds and where people come to soak for health and relaxation. Claims that the water contained more than 20 minerals have drawn visitors from the early days. The Inn at Soap Lake has operated since 1915 and there are two public beaches. The town...

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Mile: 55

Settled in 1882 by the Egbert brothers as a horse-breeding concern and platted in 1902 by J. Cyrus, Ephrata was the center of a fruit belt, where irrigation was carried on by means of wells—hence the name, given by the Great Northern Railway, after the Palestine village of Ephrata (Ephratah in the Old Testament), the predecessor of Bethlehem, which also irrigated from wells. The 1917 Grant County Courthouse, designed by...

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This is another town to which the Columbia Basin irrigation development contributed new life, where previously farmers and ranchers struggled to flourish. Two significant structures remain of the early settlement, the vernacular Reiman House, once the anchor of a 20-acre farmstead, today home to the Quincy Valley Historical Society & Museum, and Saint Paul’s German Lutheran Church, which underwent a move and a complete restoration and is a community gathering...

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Points of Interest
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Reiman House

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St Paul’s German Lutheran Church

Mile: 30

Interstate 90 crosses the Columbia on the high steel Vantage Bridge. Originally, the highway crossed the Columbia River on a 1,640-foot, two-lane cantilever bridge built by the Washington State Highway Department in 1927 to replace a small two-car ferry that operated in the same spot beginning in 1914. This earlier steel bridge was located approximately one mile north of the current bridge, in the vicinity of Ginkgo Petrified Forest State...

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Mile: 137

This community sits on the west bank of the Columbia River. SR 7 twists up the right bank of a rocky coulee, at the bottom of which patches of vivid green indicate the bushes growing along the trickle of water, and furnish the only contrast to the dun-colored sage and red-brown rocks. In pioneer days, a ferry across the Columbia River was established by W. D. Van Slyke; later a...

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Neatly laid out on the flat floor of Kittitas Valley, Ellensburg is in approximately in the geographic center of the State, and has preserved much of its early Western atmosphere. Stooped prospectors, and leather-jacketed students once mingled with sedate professional men. Originally called “Ellen’s Burgh,” after Ellen Shoudy, wife of John A. Shoudy, one of the original settlers, the town dropped its “h” by order of the Post Office Department....

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Points of Interest
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Shoudy Block

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Kittitas County Historical Museum

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Central Washington University

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