If you like taking a stroll in fresh fallen snow with few people and a chance to see wildlife, consider a quick trip up to Lower Crab Creek.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife manages the Lower Crab Creek unit on the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area. It’s about 25,000 acres of nature preserve east of Beverly, 60 miles northwest of Richland off Highway 243.
Lower Crab Creek runs in the valley east of the Columbia River along the north side of the Saddle Mountains.
From Beverly, head east on Lower Crab Creek Road. Immediately to the south, there is a pond that offers a wheelchair friendly fishing dock.
Another mile up the road, you can take another road to the north to Lenice and Nunnally lakes, which are considered to be quality catch-and-release fly fishing lakes for trout.
A parking lot with the trailhead is just another 1.5 miles east.
The abandoned Milwaukee Railroad right-of-way traverses the length of this valley. It’s part of the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, formerly John Wayne Pioneer Trail. If you want, you can walk for 10 miles each way. It’s flat, easy walking the whole way.
Or you can just go as far as time allows and turn around to return to the car.
Just two miles up the trail, you’ll go past the remnants of a log cabin. It is the last of the remaining walls in Jericho.
If there is water, there is life. Everything will be covered with lichens and moss in a spectacular array of colors.
You can look up at the Saddle Mountain ridge and see the patterns of erosion in the basalt rocks and talus slopes.
There are flocks of upland birds and song birds flitting and flying in and out of the trees and brush.
The wetlands and riparian areas along the creek and the seep ponds and uplands on the bench north of the creek, provide a diverse habitat for many species of wildlife.
Bring your binoculars or spotting scopes. You are likely to see eagles, hawks and falcons. They might be feasting on the shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl which migrate through the area.
You are likely to see plenty of animal scat along the road, and if you are lucky, you might see deer, coyote or other small mammals.
Large flocks of migrating sandhill cranes will come with the spring.
Lower Crab Creek is a great stop for a mid-day hike if you are traveling to or from the Tri-Cities to Ellensburg or Wenatchee.
Dress for the weather. Bring a pack with the 10 essentials and food and water. There are vault toilets at the trail head, but there are no facilities along the trail.