White Bluffs Trail-Hanford Reach

Hanford, Washington 99335

White Bluffs Trail-Hanford Reach

White Bluffs Trail-Hanford Reach Professional Review and Guide

"As in many regions in the Columbia Basin, this one is more of a ramble than a true hike with a beginning, middle, and end. Maybe we are more goal-oriented on the western side of the Cascades; if you must set a “goal” for this ramble, aim for the White Bluffs above Hanford Reach, approximately 3 miles from the start point.

My first visit was in late April, a bit early for most of the flowers, but signs of spring were already in the air and there was warmth in the sun. This is a fabulous area to explore, with wildlife refuges, points of historical interest, and trails that provide plenty of material for wildflower enthusiasts."

More White Bluffs Trail-Hanford Reach Professional Reviews and Guides

"White bluffs and bare sand dunes—naked nature—rise above the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River in one of the driest parts of Washington. A desert ecosystem thrives on the sandstone formations, and birds gather en masse in the water below. You can gaze down to the river and imagine the Columbia before it was shackled by dams or roam the wide open dunes and enjoy views of the Saddle Mountains to the north."

"Since the Hanford Reach became a national monument in 2000 (see “From Manhattan Project to National Monument” sidebar), more and more hikers are discovering that what they thought would be a desolate part of the state is actually thriving with fauna and flora. Thanks to being withdrawn from the public for decades and remaining in a relatively natural state, the Hanford Reach represents one of the last large undeveloped and uncultivated parts of the Columbia Plateau. One of the driest parts of the state (annual rainfall averages 7 inches), the Hanford Reach is a harsh but fragile environment. Tread softly. And be sure you’re well prepared with ample water and sun protection."

"Pass a gate and follow an old paved road south. The road was closed when the US government, during World War II, chose the surrounding area to host a massive plutonium-processing complex and several nuclear reactors. The towns of Hanford and White Bluffs were condemned and evacuated. All that remains of them are a schoolhouse and several roads and sidewalks. As you saunter down this road, try to imagine what life was like for those two rural communities on the Reach in 1942— and how quickly life changed when the Manhattan Project went into effect in 1943 (see “From Manhattan Project to National Monument” sidebar)."

"The mighty Columbia River has been called the Heart of the West. Lewis and Clark and their famous Corps of Discovery journeyed along the wild waters of the Columbia nearly two hundred years ago as they sought to open the West to U.S. expansion. The river is filled with the waters from millions of acres of wilderness, but humans long ago tamed this massive river—at least most of it.

Purely through serendipity, the lonely Hanford Reach is the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River. This section was undammed simply because the sensitive nature of the work being done at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation prevented such massive projects as a dam from being completed within its borders. The Hanford Reach can be seen from the long stretch of the White Bluffs."

"Towering white bluffs, massive sand dunes, pelican colonies, brilliant wild?owers, and the last free-?owing nontidal section of the Columbia River all make the Hanford Reach one of the most dramatic natural areas in the state.

In 1943 while in the midst of World War II, the US government launched the Manhattan Project, forever changing history with the birth of the atomic bomb as well as forever changing the landscape of the lower Columbia River Basin."

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Trail Information

Hanford
Nearby City
Dog-friendly
Accessibility
6
Distance
300 feet
Elevation Gain
Out-and-back
Trail Type
Moderate
Skill Level
Hikable: Year-round, Best flowers: April through June
Season
Wildflowers
Features
Wahluke Slope Wildlife Area
Local Contacts
USGS Coyote Rapids and Locke Island
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Oct 2018