Description - The Columbia Plateau first formed as an immense sea of prehistoric, volcanic basalt flow. It is the second largest basalt plateau in the world, but the term "plateau" belies the dramatic cliffs and canyons carved by ice age floods. Towering rock formations and steep gorges straddle the great Columbia River and its tributaries. Orchards of apple and pear form green quilts on the wide, semiarid terrain. If you think of Washington only in terms of the damp forests and cityscapes of Puget Sound, you will be amazed at the sculpted beauty of this high desert land.
- Throughout the Columbia River Plateau region, you can be as active or sedate as you want at any given moment. Moses Lake, for instance, is a haven for boaters, water sports enthusiasts and sun worshippers. Golfers, cyclists and road trippers alike take advantage of the almost ever-present sunshine and expansive vistas. Gingko Petrified Forest State Park is a geological window to a prehistoric world.
If you want to see and hear a symphony of wildlife, join the thousands of waterfowl that visit
the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. Mild winters and abundant water draw great blue heron,
sandhill cranes and tundra swans, among other precious, migratory species. You may even spot one of the relatively numerous but extremely shy coyotes that scamper amid the shrubs and high grass. Potholes State Park, named for the rather shallow lakes created during Pleistocene flooding, provides another easily accessible area to view rare wildlife and enjoy boating, fishing, hiking or picnicking.
Visitors can drive or boat through sun-soaked, red canyons of columnar basalt that line Banks
Lake. Fish or hike surrounded by spectacular monuments of rock outlined against a dark blue
sky. This is a photographer's heaven. Just downstream, relax in the legendary, healing waters
and magic mud of Soap Lake. You'll find the people and the accommodations equally warm and
friendly in this laid back area.
Recreation - The Columbia River Plateau region provides visitors with many recreational opportunities. Visitors will find hiking, biking, camping, boating, bird watching, fishing, golfing, skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.
Climate - Washington's climate varies with each region. The Cascades split the state and alter weather patterns. The terrain east of the mountains receives significantly less rainfall than that west of the mountains, 12 inches is the annual average. Temperatures in this region are lower during the winter months, because it is landlocked. Frequent winds coming down from the mountains also contribute to the low temperatures of eastern Washington.
Western Washington is temperate, due to the coastal geography. The water is a stabilizing force for the climate, making extreme temperatures rare. The area receives large amounts of rainfall from Pacific storms and some snow during winter months.
The mountains of Washington receive large amounts of water-laden snow from October through May. These peaks remain snow covered throughout the year.
The Columbia River Plateau region is located in the heart of Washington. The region can be accessed via I-90.