So far, this was my favorite stop of anywhere we’ve been. Really, truly stunning scenery in Washington. We had no idea the area looked like this, and it was a total fluke that we ended up here. It was a look on the map and say, hey, this is around the right location and is a state park. Let’s roll up and see if they have availability. Our jaws dropped as we got closer and closer and realized the gem we’d found.
Four Heavenly Days
We exited our beautiful, but noisy Oregon location in search of peace and quiet. We were ever so hopeful that Steamboat Rock State Park would be it and planned to stay three days. This was our second go at just driving up and saying we’re here. Apparently they opened a new camping loop right before we arrived and we had our pick of spots. This park is off a two lane road and not heavily traveled. Hurray to no road noise for a change. Steamboat Rock turns out to be a basalt butte that rises 800 feet above Banks Lake that completely surrounds it. Our campsite was at the base of this magnificent spot, and I told Pat when we arrived that I didn’t need to go any further on this journey. It was that good.
Here’s a shot from the drive to the park. Such unexpected views! Wish we knew the folks in front of us since I got some good pictures of them driving in the canyon.
Steamboat Rock – our spot was over to the left behind a stand of tall poplars.
View of the opposite canyon wall and lake from out site.
The topography in the area is so interesting and resulted from basalt flows covering most of Eastern Washington 10-15 million years ago. Repeated flooding from a glacial lake created the current shape of the rock says the State Park Service literature.
We read that you should hike to the top if you are able for fantastic views of the surrounding area and Coulee. And we learned that Coulee is a valley or drainage zone and taken from French meaning to flow. Ok, so enough of the teachable moments. We were determined to make it to the top and see what we could see.
Here’s my favorite of me from the top of the rock. Exhilarating to say the least, especially since we had to literally scramble through the loose rocks at times to get up the path. It was only a mile up, but pretty steep and I had to stop to let the heart rate go down a few times.
My favorite of Pat at the top of the rock – literally. There are 600 acres on top of the butte and we’re overlooking it all here.
This is the view Pat is looking at on top of that big rock.
We thought the wildflowers were spectacular at the base of the rock. That was nothing compared to the top. I actually burst into song from the Sound of Music. The hills are alive! No Julie Andrews twirl, but I’m sure this is how she must have felt. The lupine, and alpine balsam were grand.
A few more for you. Looking back up the canyon. Pat striding over to find that big rock and on the trail on the way down. Definitely had to watch our step on the loose rocks.
Jackson wanted to go up to the top, but we knew he couldn’t make that. He did get good walks to the base of the rock though. Pat and the good boy head back to the campground.
This view shows Banks Lake, Beacon Rock and Castle Rock. Lots of great formations besides Steamboat Rock.
This was definitely the peaceful spot. So quiet we could hear the birds, and that include wild turkeys. We never actually saw them, but they did their gobbling in the brush behind our site every evening.
Grand Coulee Dam
One reason we ended up in this area is because I was perusing the map and found the Grand Coulee Dam listed. “Oh we must see this”, I proclaim. The state park was right outside Electric City which is aptly named for the power produced by the grand dam.
Free tours are offered daily, but security is tight. Pretty much the same as the airport with metal detectors and no purses or bags of any kind. One of the guides was kind enough to take our picture in front of the dam.
It doesn’t really look like it but the Grand Coulee Dam is larger than the Hoover Dam with four times as much concrete and handling three times as much water. In fact it is the second largest concrete structure in the world, second only to a dam in China. It operates in cooperation with three dams upstream in Canada and coordinates with dams downstream to provide irrigation to the area. Irrigation was the original primary reason for the dam back in the FDR days and is the reason the area is knows for crops including mint. Of course power is huge, too, providing electricity for a big part of the West Coast.
A Real Waterfall
Right across from the park on the facing rock wall was a “real” waterfall. Not that hole in the ground I showed you way back from our travels in Florida.
If you look really closely, there is a guy fishing down by the water to give you an idea of size.
Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow
Ah, but Alaska is the goal and we must leave. We extended our stay to four days and loved every minute of Steamboat Rock and the surrounding area. I was sad to say good-by to this spot, but our last night was a good one.
We were treated to a moonrise over the glowing canyon walls at sunset.
Next up – good-by US, hello Canada! We’re headed across the border into British Columbia and Alaska is really getting close. See you on the way!