Friday, February 24, 2012
W ~ White Bluffs, Hanford
It is odd to think of such a place of beauty at the backdoor of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. But it is the reservation which actually as the foundation of this lands beauty.
The Hanford Reach National Monument was created as a buffer zone around the Hanford Reservation. Along with the adjacent Yakima Military Range and the Hanford Reservation itself, it preserves a large swath of steppe, grassland and dessert. From space the vegetation borders of these areas can easily be seen. Recent news that the Arid Land Ecology unit west of Hanford was once again going to be open to hikers excites me very much. I visited once with an Ornithology convention and the wonders we saw on our short visit made me want to return.
The area is given to very harsh extremes of weather and ecology. Stunningly dry its large treeless areas can be a challenge in sunny weather. Wind can be fierce and also draws moisture from you. I never venture out into this area without 2 gallons of drinking water in the car.
The Columbia river cuts through the middle and it is here the river flows freely, unencumbered by the multitude of dams and their effects. On the east side of the river thick chalk hills are cut and show their gleaming white face.
It is easy to ramble for hours along this cliff face. In the Spring the ground is alive with flowers and bugs of all descriptions. Bird congregate around rivers, streams and the pothole ponds and lakes that stud the area. Much of the region to the north and east of here was carved by the Bretz Floods. These floods left numerous ponds and lakes behind. White Pelican and Sandhill Crane can be found along these waterways.