The Hanford Reach –One of Washington’s unsung Great Places

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Hanford’s dramatic White Bluffs

When we think about Washington’s great national parks and monuments, we usually quickly think: Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades National Parks as well as the Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument. Very few of us however think of the Hanford Reach National Monument. Created by President Clinton in 2000 by using the Antiquities Act of 1906 (the same law that President Teddy Roosevelt used to establish Olympic National Monument -later changed to park by his cousin President Franklin D. Roosevelt), the Hanford Reach is one of the most stunning and ecologically important places within the state. Aside from harboring the last large free flowing non-tidal stretch of the Columbia River, the monument teems with wildlife and spectacular beauty.


Kayaking beneath the White Bluffs of the Hanford Reach.

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Here elk, coyote and eagles flourish. White pelicans and avocets too. All told there are 43 species of fish, 42 species of mammals, 258 bird species, 4 amphibian species, 11 reptile species and over 1,500 invertebrate species including many found nowhere else in the world.  And the reach contains scores of flowering plants, too. Quite remarkable when you consider that the Hanford Reach consists of some of the driest and hottest landscapes in the Columbia Basin. And it is some of the finest shrub-steppe habitat remaining in Washington state.

If you have never explored this area, now is the time while temperatures remain agreeable and the shrub-steppe begins to bloom with wildflowers. The place is simply stunning and I have kayaked it and hiked it on numerous occasions. Information on hiking in the area is scarce. But, no worries as the Hanford Reach is highlighted in both my Day Hiking Eastern Washington book (co-written with Rich Landers) and upcoming 100 Classic Hikes Washington book. Have you hiked here it yet? If not, I hope you get out there soon before the sun really starts to heat things up.

2 comments on “The Hanford Reach –One of Washington’s unsung Great Places

  1. kevin orme on said:

    is the Hanford Reach still safe from radiation given the not-far Hanford Nuke facility?

    • Administrator on said:

      Hi Kevin, the reach is across the river from the old nuclear facilities (which are being cleaned up), so I wouldn’t be too concerned about radiation from the site.

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