White Bluffs - North Slope Trail 04/10/2021
A surreal hike through white sand dunes in Central Washington along the Columbia River.
Watercolor Sketch by Christina Deubel
WHITE Bluffs - Hanford Reach National Monument - Othello, Wa
Distance: 5.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 692
Activity: Hike (wear your glasses!)
Driving to White Bluffs
Just over 2 hours from Spokane or around 3 hours for my friends on the west side of the state. White Bluffs trailhead is an easy day trip. The road turns to gravel once you enter the Hanford Reach Monument but it was well maintained and smooth as can be. The gravel lot had more than enough room to spread out. No overnight camping here. There were 2 outhouses located just past the trailhead at the boat launch.
Hiking White Bluffs North Slope
Leaving from the lot you head off into the sage, with the river to your left and the great unkown lying out of sight over the first gently rolling hill. The trail here is fairy hard packed & sprinkled with wild flowers.
The crystal blue, Columbia River stays to our left and appears almost docile in this section. As we make our way the winds picked up & the trail began to be replaced by soft sand.
The 30 mph gusts seemed much stronger out in the open sand, sometimes even blowing you from your footing. There was a great deal of "Wow!" and "This is Crazy!" coming from the group as we made our way up the dunes. A mix of awe & perhaps questioning our sanity. I kept thinking that a camel should be passing in the distance. As crazy as it may sound the fossils of not only camel but rhinoceros & mastodons have been found in the cliffs along the river here. How freaking cool is that!?!
In spite of the winds, and the fact that our faces were literally caked with sand, this hike was INCREDIBLE!!!!!
The opportunity to watch my beautiful friends sit on top of the dunes, their faces being blasted by sand, as they contemplate meditation & the zen of this perfect moment... it was glorious!
What is the Hanford Reach National Monument?
Across the river from this beautiful nature preserve you can see the plutonium reactors from WWII. Those very reactors are responsible for creating the plutonium for Fat Man, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. I really hate to close this post on a dark note, but the sobering reality of why this place even exists is impossible to ignore. The area where you are permitted to hike is the security buffer zone that surrounded the nuclear site. It is untouched by development or agriculture since 1943.
White Bluffs Trail Review
The juxtapose of soft sand to hard cliffs, zen views to punishing wind storms, beauty and tragedy. This place is the epitome of yin and yang. It truly is an awe inspiring place that i would love to visit again. I'll be it, with a more keen eye on the wind forecast.
There were several off shoots down to the river & awesome rock formations to explore. It also appears that one could hike way further, exploring deep into the Hanford Reach Monument. I would keep this a spring or fall hike, it must be sweltering in the dead of summer & don't forget your eye protection!
Go check out the Hanford Reach National Monument and let me know what you think!