See Orchards, Vineyards, Wanapum Dam and More
From the park, head west on Lee Boulevard, and turn right to head north on Jadwin Avenue — Richland’s other main drag through town. After about 2.5 miles, Jadwin Avenue returns to state Route 240; continue heading north on the highway.
The next stretch of highway runs northwest through the Hanford reservation area. Much of this stretch affords pristine views of desert grassland set against the stark, dominant visage of Rattlesnake Mountain, a massive rock towering roughly 3,500 feet above the valley floor. After nearly 30 miles, Highway 240 intersects with Highway 24; continue heading north on what becomes Highway 24, following signs for Othello and Vantage.
After about 5 miles on Highway 24, you’ll cross the Columbia River for the final time on this loop. At the Y-shaped intersection just beyond the river, head left to continue northward on state Route 243.
Roughly 8 miles beyond the junction, you’ll pass the first of Grant County’s two power-generation plants, Priest Rapids Dam, off to the left. No visitor facilities are present at the dam — but to its immediate north is the Wanapum Heritage Center, which offers exhibits and events that honor the Wanapum people, as well as their culture, traditions and beliefs.
Another 6 miles click by as state Route 243 continues north and passes through the community of Mattawa, a predominantly Latino community and hub for local orchards and vineyards.
The road dives down to the shore and follows the Columbia through Sentinel Gap, a grand, rockbound path the river has carved through the ridge of the Saddle Mountains.
Just 5 miles north of the gap, our tour passes Wanapum Dam, the second of Grant County’s Columbia River dams. This massive structure spans some 8,000 feet across. Here the Grant PUD Visitors Center shows how dams are operated on the Columbia River and showcases information about the region and its history.
Beyond the visitor center, continue north for 4 miles, where state Route 243 ends at a junction with Highway 26; continue north on Highway 26 for another mile, at which point you’ll arrive at I-90, just across the Columbia River from Vantage — and the end of our tour loop.
– Written by John King, last updated in October 2022.
– Top image by Adonis Villaneuva/Getty Images.