Exploring the Coulee Corridor Scenic Bypass

When most people think of Washington state the majority likely think of the same things. Coffee. Rain. Seattle. Space Needle. Boeing. Mt St Helens. Dry Falls, Soap Lake and Coulee Corridor probably aren’t the first thing to come to mind, nor are they familiar.

Lake Roosevelt Washington state

Sunset on Lake Roosevelt Ferry

The Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway is a stretch of road in central Washington that offers some amazing natural attractions. The 100 mile bypass runs from the Grand Coulee Dam (90 miles west of Spokane) to Othello, WA. On our way back from the remote Washington town of Republic, which sits near the Canadian border, we decided to took the scenic route.

Grand_Coulee_Dam_Panorama_Smaller

*image from wikipedia*

Grand Coulee Dam

This dam is the highest electric power producing structure in the entire United States. The Grand Coulee Dam is actually the 3rd largest producer of electricity in the entire world! I don’t have to understand much about engineering to know that is impressive. Every summer night from Memorial Day Weekend until September 30th there are spectacular laser light shows put on here as well. April 1-September 30th there are dam tours available, but if you visit during the off season you can at least check out the visitor center which is open year round.

Dry Falls, WA

Dry Falls

Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park

When I first heard of Dry Falls I was expecting some sort of waterfall…but that’s where they dry part comes in. See that cliff in the back of the picture? This 3.5 mile long cliff is thought to have once been the largest waterfall in the world during the Ice Age. Obviously it has since dried up.

photo 1

Dry Falls

The Dry Falls viewing area is located right off the Coulee Corridor and is free to visit. Although, you do need to have a Discover Pass to be able to park in the parking lot (we were only there for 15 minutes or so- I imagine it wouldn’t be a big issue for those stopping for a short visit). We had already bought an annual Discover Pass for $30 this summer (otherwise it is $10 for a 1-day pass). There is something moon-like and eerily beautiful about this area.

The Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park looks like a really nice campground. There is a concession stand, swimming, boating and fishing opportunities and many lakes to explore.

Lake Lenore Caves

Not far from Dry Falls is a great hiking opportunity to ancient caves that people once lived in. The 1.5 mile roundtrip hike will bring you to 7 caves you can explore. The parking lot looks well marked and the trails appear to be well maintained. We didn’t have time to stop here, but you can read more about the Lake Lenore Caves or check out the WTA hiking info.

Soap Lake, Washington

Soap Lake, Washington

Soap Lake

Of the 5 lakes along the Coulee Corridor, Soap Lake is my favorite. With that said, I have not actually visited the others but I’m sure Soap Lake would still be my favorite 😉

This lake is called a soda lake because it is alkaline and produces a lot of soap-like bubbles. It is also a meromictic lake, which is a fancy term for meaning that the two layers of water in the lake never mix. Only approximately 1 in 1,000 lakes in the world have this quality. And another quality to make this one of the coolest lakes ever- it contains ichtyols which is used in salves to help treat skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. All of these qualities have lead to Soap Lake being hailed for its curative powers and is considered to be “Washington’s Health Resort.” The town of Soap Lake is rather quaint as well and has a cool small town feel.

Making these few stops really made the long drive more enjoyable. Central Washington is so greatly under-appreciated. It is an excellent place to visit; whether you are passing through or making it your final destination you should make some time to visit this beautiful place in the Northwest.

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