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Columbia Plateau Trail State Park
Columbia Plateau Trail State Park © Williamborg / Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo of the Columbia Plateau Trail a rail trail in a Washington State Park in Spokane County.On the Columbia Plateau in Washington State.
Columbia Plateau Trail State Park © Williamborg / Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
photo taken along hte wColumbia Plateau Trail in wWashington state.
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100 SW Main Street
Washtucna, Washington   99371
Columbia Plateau Trail State Park is a 3876-acre, 130-mile-long rail-bed trail that traces the 1908 original path of the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railroad. The route is most accessible at Cheney, with other less accessible points along the way. The route is steeped in history, re-told at interpretive kiosks on the trail. Scenic vistas reward the visitor who undertakes this sometimes challenging hike. Currently 23 miles of the trail between Lincoln County and Cheney are developed and open for public use. Activities include hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, in-line skating, nature viewing, bird watching, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Wildlife viewing is a very popular attraction along the Columbia Plateau Trail as it passes 4.75 miles through the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. Many large animals can be seen such as deer, elk and moose. More than 200 species of birds have been identified, and the area is famed for the visiting trumpeter swans. The best times for wildlife viewing is early morning and evening. Spring migration occurs from mid-March through mid-May, while fall migration is from September through November. While enjoying your trek through the refuge, you can read from several interpretive panels on topics such as wildlife, the Ice Age Floods and wetlands. The trail is open to hikers, bicyclers, and, in the near future, equestrians.
Nature of the Area
About 15 million years ago, huge outpourings of basaltic lava buried the Eastern Washington landscape under a sea of lava. Much later, during the Ice Age, some of the largest documented floods to ever occur raced across Eastern Washington, carving out a landscape of basalt buttes, basins and canyons. A volume of water comparable to some of today's Great Lakes was unleashed when an ice dam in northern Idaho burst. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of flood events eroded the lava surface into the unique landscape known as the Channeled Scabland. Trail visitors will see stark reminders of one of the world's largest volcanic fields eroded by the cataclysmic Ice Age Floods.
History of the Area
In the early 1900s, the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway Company constructed a rail bed in the area. The company, which never actually connected the line from Portland to Seattle, operated the steam, and later diesel, railway for more than 50 years. It was said that the owner, James Hill, promoted the railway as a Seattle connection only to mislead competing railroad developers. The Burlington Northern Company operated the rail line for many years after, until the company abandoned it in 1987. State Parks acquired the land in 1991. Remains of reservoirs, reservoir flumes and homes of former railroad employees and other developments also are apparent along sections of the trail. The trestle over Burr Canyon, built in 1908, is listed as a state and national historic landmark.

A Discover Pass is required for vehicle access to Washington state parks for day use. For more information about the Discover Pass and exemptions, please visit the Discover Pass web page.
County-owned Fish Lake is adjacent to the trail and offers boat ramp availability.

Columbia Plateau Trail State Park is located near Pasco

Covered, ADA-accessible picnic tables are available at Cheney and Fish Lake trailheads.
1. Columbia Plateau Trail: This is the main trail that stretches over 130 miles from Fish Lake near Cheney to Pasco, offering a long-distance hiking experience through diverse landscapes.

2. Snake River Junction Section: A roughly 15-mile section of the trail running along the beautiful Snake River with scenic views and opportunities for wildlife spotting.

3. Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail: An interpretive path within park boundaries showcasing geological features created by ancient floods during ice age periods.

4. Cheney-Palouse Segment: Approximately a 23-mile stretch starting at Fish Lake in Spokane County ending south of Turnbull Wildlife Refuge; it's mostly flat terrain making it suitable for all skill levels.

5. Tri-Cities Area Trails - Richland/Pasco/Kennewick Loop: These are shorter trails around urban areas providing easy access points and amenities like restrooms or picnic spots while still enjoying nature settings.

6. Turnbull Connection Pathway: Connects directly to nearby Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge allowing hikers an extended exploration into protected habitats home to various bird species, moose, elk etc.,.

7. Fish Lake Rail:Trail Connector: Links up with another popular regional rail-trail system leading towards Mount Spokane State Park adding more mileage options for ambitious trekkers,.

8. Sprague:Lamont Stretch: Roughly about ten mile segment passing through rural farmlands giving glimpses into local agriculture practices,.

9. Martin Road:Snake River Bridge Route: About seven miles featuring river crossings via historic railroad bridges now converted as part of this recreational pathway network,.

10. Washtucna:Hooper Branch Line Spur: Shorter spur off main route heading westward toward Palouse Falls State Park known its dramatic waterfall view point.
Biking enthusiasts can enjoy a 130-mile rail-trail conversion, offering scenic views of the channeled scablands and Palouse regions.

The trail is not fully developed yet; some sections may be rough or challenging to navigate.

It's important for cyclists to carry their own water supply as there are limited facilities along this remote path.

Also note that parts of the route pass through private property - respect boundaries and stay on designated paths only.

Be aware that wildlife sightings are common here so proceed with caution especially during dawn and dusk hours when animals tend to be more active.

Lastly, always wear appropriate safety gear including helmets while biking in these areas.
Birdwatchers can spot species like the American Kestrel, Red-tailed Hawk and Northern Harrier. The park is home to various songbirds such as Western Meadowlarks, Horned Lark and Brewer's Sparrow. Waterfowl including Mallards, Canada Geese are common near wetlands areas. Raptors like Bald Eagles may also be seen soaring overhead.

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Located between Cheney, Wash. and the tri-cities area (Pasco, Richland and Kennewick) in Adams and Whitman Counties.

Columbia Plateau Trail may be accessed by several trailheads by following the signs after exiting I-90.Westbound I-90: Take exit 270 (Four Lakes/Cheney) to access Fish Lake Trailhead (8.4 miles from I-90), Cheney Trailhead (7.5 miles from I-90), Amber Lake Trailhead (19.2 miles from I-90) and Martin Road Trailhead (29.5 miles from I-90).Eastbound I-90: Take exit 245 (Sprague/Harrington) to access Martin Road Trailhead (8 miles from I-90) and Amber Lake Trailhead (21.1 miles from I-90). Take exit 257 (Cheney/Tyler) to access Cheney Trailhead (11.9 miles from I-90) and Fish Lake Trailhead (15 miles from I-90).

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Washington State Parks