Going east to visit the Walla Walla region is not only about visiting the land of sweet onions and enjoying wine tastings; it’s also about discovering fascinating history and magnificent landscapes.
From June to September you can soak up the warm temperatures, but in winter, temperatures are frequently below freezing.
Between the 1600s and 1870s, trading posts were the main trading places for the fur trade and the exchange of commodities between native populations and settlers in Canada and the United States. Furs were exchanged for items made in Europe.
Walla Walla was one of these trading posts. It was known in the 19th century as Fort Nez Percés, later known as Fort Walla Walla. The fort, located on the Columbia River, was active from 1818 to 1857.
The Nez Perce are an Amerindian tribe that lived in the northwestern United States of America at the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition. A trip to the eastern part of Washington retraces portions of the expedition’s trip.
The Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-1806) was the first American land expedition to cross the United States from the east all the way to the Pacific coast. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809, convinced Congress at the time to allocate $2,500 to fund the project to send officers to explore the “wild west.”
Today’s descent of the Columbia River, following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, is a much more enjoyable trip than it was in 1806!
In summer, once one crosses over Snoqualmie Pass, nature changes; vegetation becomes increasingly rare and even non-existent. Traveling further eastward, one next crosses desert mountains and then the Palousian meadow, which is comparable to a green and level carpet of lawn. One then travels through the “Palouse”, an area of undulating hills covered with orchards and fields of wheat.
In summer, the intensive cultivation practiced in this region offers golden blond colored fields as far as the eye can see, reflecting the ever present and very hot summer sun in this region. Center pivot irrigation systems that each water hundreds of meters of crops are part of the landscape.
Bales of straw are seen piled up in fields. Trucks loaded with tons of these straw bales export them to other states. Huge, impressively massive agricultural machines harvest the crops of the Palouse.
A visit to Palouse Falls State park: The site of Palouse Falls is located on the Palouse River, about 2.5 miles upstream from its confluence with the Snake River. The Falls plunge into a 500 foot deep canyon. A ridge of needle-shaped rocks overlooks the canyon. One can venture behind the rocks to see the river and its waterfalls, provided that the stony descent and the rattlesnakes don’t make you turn back.
Walla Walls is a small, pretty town complete with a university and a museum to visit. The Fort Walla Walla Museum features an outdoor pioneer village with 17 mostly original buildings from the past (including cabins, a school, shops, etc.), several very well organized exhibit rooms, and an interesting scenography on the history of agriculture and agricultural mechanization in the region.