Along I-90, Stop for Wildlife, Grand Coulee Dam and More
Our auto tour begins at Interstate 90’s exit at Vantage, which serves as a gateway to our first stop: Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park (Discover Pass required), famous for hosting some of the most diverse samples of petrified ginkgo trees in North America.
Attractions at the park’s disparate units include the Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Center, which showcases indoor exhibits that tell the story of the petrified forest; several hiking trails (one of which passes nearly two dozen exposed petrified logs); and opportunities to view the region’s wildlife — including deer, elk, bighorn sheep, coyote, and the northern pacific rattlesnake. The park’s interpretive center sits just 0.4 mile north of town, while the park’s historic core and hiking trails sit about 2.5 miles northwest of Vantage — both along the Old Vantage Highway.
Heading east out of Vantage, let’s return to I-90 and cross the Columbia.
From Vantage, I-90 continues to climb before leveling out into one of the most prolific agricultural areas in the state — Grant County. The area’s nearly 1,900 farms produce crops and livestock worth nearly $1.2 billion each year; keep an eye out for corn, wheat, hay and potatoes.
Grand Coulee Dam
After about 15 miles, I-90 arrives in the town of George. Unsurprisingly named for the United States’ first president, George doesn’t host much in the way of services, but the exit here is a key junction point for those heading to north-central Washington; State Route 281 darts north to Quincy and offers options for heading northwest to Wenatchee or northeast to Grand Coulee Dam. Consult the North Columbia Basin Auto Tour for details on those cities and sights.
As you head east along I-90, you’ll arrive at Moses Lake — the largest city on I-90 between the Seattle metro area and Spokane, and the center of services for a 50-mile radius. Its eponymous lake is more than 18 miles long and boasts over 120 miles of shoreline — making it a popular destination for boaters, paddlers and swimmers.
For most east-west drivers, Moses Lake begins and ends at the gas stations, lodgings and fast-food joints at the east end of town at Exit 179. The city, however, has a number of parks that provide a welcome stop. Blue Heron Park, off Exit 174 along the lake’s western shore, hosts a day-use area featuring a large picnicking ground, a free boat launch, a fishing pier and a nine-hole disc golf course.
Just east of Blue Heron Park along I-90 is Exit 176; take this exit to chart a course for downtown Moses Lake — home to diners, coffee shops and the Moses Lake Museum & Art Center, roughly three miles away. At Ash Street, turn left to head northwest toward the lake, follow the road as it curves left and pull into the lakeside alley to arrive at Neppel Landing. Walking trails lead to scenic views along the shore. For a more kid-friendly option in downtown Moses Lake, check out the city’s Surf n’ Slide Water Park. Located two blocks east of Broadway on South Cedar Street and open Memorial Day to Labor Day, the park is home to a surfing simulator, a pair of 200-foot waterslides and a lazy river.
Continue following Broadway Avenue to the northeastern edge of downtown, where it arrives at a junction with Pioneer Way; continue following the road as it becomes Pioneer Way and turns southeast.
– Written by John King. Updated by Matthew Wastradowski in September 2020.
–Top Image of Columbia River and Vantage Bridge by Getty Images.