Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Washington

In March 2015, I spent a weekend wandering the open terrain of Eastern Washington in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. There are only a few trails but I mostly walked overland in open country and had the whole place to myself. It’s an incredible landscape of sagebrush, grass, cliffs, plateaus, wetlands and lakes with a surprising amount of wildlife and fascinating geological features. The cliffs and plateaus were carved out by a massive Ice Age flood caused by a massive ancient lake that burst through its ice dam.

The refuge is open to hunting from autumn to winter and certain areas are closed to public use to protect migrating waterfowl. It can be extremely hot in the summer and the mosquitoes are horrendous around May through the summer. I recommend going in March; there shouldn’t be any bugs, the temperatures will be comfortable and most of the reserve will be open. Keep in mind that no camping is allowed at any time but there is a campsite in nearby Potholes State Park.

The reserve is between Moses Lake and Othello in Washington State on the eastern side of the Cascades. It can be accessed on its north side from Hwy 262 or on its south side from Hwy 26 that passes through Othello.

Bring your own water because the lakes might be contaminated with agricultural runoff from the surrounding farmland.

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