Lots of things in Central Washington are called “coulees” and despite reading about it on Wikipedia I’m still not 100% sure what a coulee is. I don’t think Wikipedia really knows either. (This is one of the first times that Wikipedia has failed me.) Further research has suggested that a while valleys carved by rivers are “V” shaped and valleys carved by glaciers are “U” shaped, coulees are valleys that are box shaped, maybe like “|_|” with vertical cliffs and flat bottoms, generally without a river. These are carved by glacial floods, which I will write more about in a separate post, so stay tuned.
There is a giant Coulee just off I-90 (the main east-west highway in the state) near Vantage WA, called Frenchman Coulee and I went to check it out.
First of all, driving around this area is just generally beautiful. This picture hopefully conveys the ubiquitousness of hydro-electric power buzzing around. Even in its industry, it’s beautiful.
I don’t know if these pictures convey how beautiful and massive it was! I enjoyed being outside and hiking around a bit, but it was also extremely cold. Even though the snow has melted, I think it is still hard to be outside for too long of stretches.
Within Frenchman Coulee there is a rock formation of columnar basalt named “The Feathers” which is popular destination for outdoor rock climbing. There were a few climbers present when we checked it out, and I bet the view from the top was spectacular. I’ve never been into climbing outdoors myself but seeing this made me want to try harder on that front.
It was a great trip and I’d recommend to anyone in the area. Check it out! I want to come back when it’s warmer, of course. There is an access to the Columbia River at the very end of the coulee that is blocked off right now due repairs on the crack in Wanapum Dam. By spring the water levels should be back!