the Southern route of the Yellowstone Trail in Washington State
April 24,25, 2013
Before 1925 the
Yellowstone trail took a southerly route from Spokane to Walla
Walla then West to The Tri-cities and Northwest along the
Northern Pacific Railroad to Yakima then north to Ellensburg.
of the route from Ellensburg to Richland
We were coming
so we took the route east. We drove east over Snoqualmie pass on
interstate 90 to Thorp. We drove through Thorp
on the old Thorp Hwy. The Thorp Hwy was not part of the
Yellowstone Trail. I just like driving along old roads so we
took this route into Ellensburg. We then drove to Ellensburg and
had breakfast and then back on the trail.
We wanted to
take the original route south on Umptanum
Rd to Wenas but it is almost 30 miles of dirt road and I
didn’t want to take the car on that much dirt road. Instead,
we decided to make some time and take interstate 82 over the
hill into Selah. I figured we could explore Wenas another time.
along the freeway going
up out of Ellensburg and got a good
photo of the town and surrounding area. On the way into the
Yakima Valley we stopped at the rest stop and got some good
photos of Selah,
Rainier and Mt
Adams. I also took a shot of the Interstate
As we got to
Selah we were back on the trail. The old road follows S 1st St
through Selah and before the freeway over the river the road
veered to the left onto was is now Golf
course Rd. There was an old bridge across the river here and
you can still see the original pavement. Then the old road
connected to what is now Hwy 823 into Yakima.
We then took
1st St south into Yakima and continued south on 1st
St. The area is quite built up in the 100 years since the trail
came through here and there isn’t much left of those days.
From Yakima to
the Tri Cities
We headed out
of Yakima and towards Zillah on US 97. We stopped at the heritage
marker on the south side of the canyon that marked the Indian
War of 1855 that took place near here. From there it was
southeast to Wapato.
Once we got to
Wapato. We took a side trip to Toppenish to visit the Northern
Pacific Railroad Museum. We checked out the old
locomotive and after taking a photo of the old
depot I noticed the
monad above the old Depot was from the Yellowstone Park
Then it was
over the Yakima River to Donald
and then right onto the Yakima Valley Hwy through Buena. Past
Buena we took a right onto Rosa Dr / 5th St and
passed the old 1910
church and into Zillah.
When we got to
the intersection of 5thSt and
in Zillah we saw a newly posted
trail sign. It was good to see the
sign posted along the old route.
We took a side
trip back north to see the old
Tea Pot Gas Station constructed in 1922. They moved it in
1978 during the construction of Interstate 82 and is about 1.2
miles away from the original location. After some
it was back on the trail.
We drove out of
1st Ave and back to the Yakima Valley Hwy toward
Granger. After leaving Granger, I believe the old route followed
Van Belle Rd to Sunnyside after 1919 or 1920.
it was on Edison St and then after leaving town we took a right
onto the Sunnyside-Mabton Rd. then left onto Grandview Pavement
Rd into Grandview.
Grandview, we took the Old
Inland Empire Hwy into Prosser while taking some photos of
country and Yakima
river. As you drive through this region
with Mt Adams as a backdrop, you can see all the various
agricultural farms and realize how much farmland it takes to
give us the food we buy in the grocery stores.
From Prosser we
were back on the Old Inland Empire Hwy. The signs now just refer
the highway as the O. I. E. The next town is Benton City. After
crossing the Yakima River on 1st St into Kiona we
took SR224 toward West Richland.
I found from
the old 1915 maps that the route to Richland took a more diagonal
route. Down Kennedy road a few miles, the road veers to the
left toward Hwy 224.
We stopped for
lunch and a few quilt stores to please the wife, then we headed
out of town and to Kennewick. From Kennewick we crossed the
Columbia River and into Pasco.
We decided to
stop at Sacajawea
State park to step foot on one of the places Lewis
and Clark camped. This is the confluence
of the Snake and Columbia rivers and is a majestic place to be.
The Indians had camped here for thousands of years.
landscape has been altered by the parks dept in the way of trees
and grasses it was still something we had to see. This is near
the old town of Ainsworth.
Ainsworth was the county seat and a major railroad town. There
is nothing left of the town now. After watching the baby
geese we headed toward Wallula
From the Tri
Cities to Walla Walla
of route from Richland to Colfax
the Tri-Cities we crossed the Snake River on US12 and headed
toward Walla Walla. This segment from Burbank to Wallula
Junction is now underwater due to the dam.
From Wallula to
Touchet I believe the original Route followed a now long
gone alignment. On the map I have traced this alignment out as
best I could. You now have to follow US12
I think that
when the original route met back up with US12 at the Walla Walla
River, the original route continued across US12 and onto Byrnes
and followed the Railroad into Touchet.
through Touchet and stopped at the old town of Lowden. Took some
photos of the old abandoned garage,
Then we continued on toward Walla Walla.
Before we got
to Walla Walla we took a right onto the Old Hwy12 and stopped at
town site of Frenchtown
looked at the mission
marker and the Oregon
Trail marker and then proceeded to the Whitman Mission State
Here at the Whitman
Mission State Park we looked at the place where the massacre
had happened. It was a somber place. After some photos
we walked the preserved
part of the Oregon Trail that is still there.
We then walked
up to the monument
to look at the view
of the grounds
and surrounding area. This is a painting
of what it used to look like. We then walked down to see the
After our visit we then drove into Walla Walla.
Walla to Colfax
We got a room
in Walla Walla and then the next Morning it was back on the
From Dixie we stayed on US12 north into Waitsburg.
After some photos of the old town, we took US12 to Dayton. I
believe the original route took some of the back roads to Dayton
and not on US12.
Once we got
we stopped to take some photos of the Old
Railroad Depot which was built in 1881 and the Old
Courthouse. Leaving Dayton we found this old
bridge. It is on Patit Rd east of town.
I do not think
it is part of the trail but a nice old 1915 bridge. We got back
on US12 north. Along this part of the hwy we spotted the old
alignment and bridge.
From the architecture I figure it was built sometime around 1915
same as the bridge we found on Patit Rd..
Once we got to
the intersection of SR261 and US12 we decided to break off the
trail and take a side trip on SR261 through Starbuck
and west along the Snake
River toward Lyons Ferry. This is at the confluence of the Snake
We stopped at Lyons
Ferry for some nice photos of the river,
trestle, then it was north up to the Palouse
Falls State Park. The auto bridge across the river has its
own interesting history.
The steel truss
bridge was originally built for the Columbia River crossing at
Vantage, Washington in 1927. In 1963 that crossing was upgraded
to a four lane bridge, and the older bridge was dismantled. The
same bridge was then re-assembled in 1968 in its current
We were glad we
made this side trip as the falls
there are many vistas to view the falls.
There is a nice cut
in the rocks the railroad goes through as we drive over to
get into the park.
We took many photos
of the place saw some prairie
dogs sunning themselves. We then headed back out over the Palouse
hills northeast to Washtucna.
In Washtucna we
saw an old abandoned gas
Station and an old Chevrolet
dealer. Then it was east and back to the trail at Colfax on
Trail when leaving Dayton would take US12 north to SR127 and to
Central Ferry. The 1918 Blue Book advised travelers’ to
continue northwest to the Penawana Ferry instead of the Central
Ferry as it talked about there being a better road and ferry in
Penawana. After crossing either ferry, the traveler would
continue northwest to Colfax.
From Colfax to
of the route from Colfax to Spokane
We stopped in Colfax
got a bite to eat at Arby’s and then headed north on US195
and north to Rosalia. We took the old
US195 and stopped at the old Milwaukee
You can still see the Yellowstone
trail marker painted on the bridge.
Once in Rosalia
we got a couple of photos of old
homes and the old restored Texaco
Station built in 1923. It is now the Rosalia Visitor
Resource and Interpretive Center. Leaving town we spotted a nice
Then it was
north on the Old
hwy toward Thornton
. We were treated with some old original concrete
pavement and followed the abandoned railroad. We took a
photo of a concrete
drain that went under the railroad. After some photos of the
old road, we drove into Thornton
it was north
and before we got to Spokane we took a photo of the old
alignment then drove into Spokane.
Now it was west
across the state back to Seattle.