Explore the Geographic Heart of Washington
By John King
The Columbia Basin forms the geographic heart of the Evergreen State, yet it hides in plain sight from tourists who stick to major highways. Rocks and rivers take on an epic quality in north-central Washington — a landscape that showcases the results of an ideal blend of natural forces and the iron will of civilization.
The North Columbia Basin Auto Tour is best traversed either as a day-long loop trip from Wenatchee or broken into two half-day segments with an overnight near Grand Coulee Dam. The full-circle route covers 215 miles and takes four and a half hours to drive without stops. From its bustling start in Wenatchee, the tour heads east through sparse farmland and sagebrush steppe, turns north toward the enormous Grand Coulee Dam and returns west through rolling hillsides, sweeping river canyons and verdant fruit orchards.