How to identify Mid-Columbia wildflowers
The cool and wet spring may have delayed the flowers a few weeks, but the warmer weather has fueled spectacular carpets of color at lower to mid-elevations all over the Pacific Northwest.
You can start low near the rivers and work your way up in elevation. The dazzling displays of wildflowers will follow the disappearing melting snow till it peaks in the high country in summer and then back down with the late fall blooms.
Here are just some of the many places to go to see the wildflowers in central and southeast Washington:
Tri-Cities flower hikes
Badger and Candy Mountain — Arrow leaf balsamroot, desert parsley and a several species of daisy create a sea of yellow all over the lower elevation hillsides.
Rattlesnake Slope — This delightful trail north of Richland slowly works up the southern portion of Rattlesnake Mountain and offers a spectacular view of the Columbia River Valley and the Tri-Cities.
White Bluffs north slope trail — This amazing trail outside of Othello wanders along the sand dunes on the east side of the Columbia River on the Hanford National Monument. If you are lucky you might see Umtanem desert buckwheat and the White Bluffs Bladderpod, which are listed as a threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Cowiche Canyon Conservancy and Snow Mountain Ranch — These two adjacent properties offer protection for over 5,000 acres and 30 miles of trails that get you access to shrub-steppe habitat — the dominant special landscape with the unique combinations of sagebrush and grasslands, flowering meadows and oak woodlands.
Umtanem Ridge and Yakima Skyline Trail — These trails offer bird’s eye views of the Yakima Canyon with many miles of trails with stunning colorful arrays of wildflowers. On the ridgelines you can find the pink bitterroot, purple larkspur, white and pink buckwheat, even the showy big-headed clover. Keep an eye out for wildlife — you may see coyote, deer and bighorn sheep, which live in the canyon.
Columbia River Gorge Lyle Cherry Orchard — This wonderful day hike is on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge near Lyle, Wash. It offers spectacular views of the Columbia River, spring wildflowers and an old Garry oak forest of gnarled trees. This amazing nature preserve is owned by the Friends of the Columbia Gorge.
The Dalles Mountain Ranch — This part of the Columbia Hills State Park has a noted springtime balsamroot-lupine bloom along with historic old ranch buildings, sweeping vistas, steep rocky cliffs, creeks and a waterfall, wildlife and dozens of other species of flowers. Coyote Wall, Catherine Creek and Crawford Oaks present other opportunities for you to escape the crowds and experience the wonders of springtime.
Ginko Petrified Forest — Offers amazing Columbia River views and outdoor exhibits of petrified wood and information on Ice Age floods features carved into the walls of the Columbia River Gorge. The interpretive center features more than 30 varieties of petrified wood, including a shiny black slice of an ancient gum tree.
Kendall Skyline trail — The trail starts at lower elevations and offers spectacular scenic views as it rises into the forests of the Blue Mountains for more than 40 miles. There are numerous side trails of varying difficulty and plenty of adventurous options.
Guided wildflower hikes
If you’d prefer to learn about the wildflowers under the knowing eye of an experienced botanist, consider tagging along on one of wildflower walks offered by the Columbia Basin Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society.
They are offering a series of flower walks that focus on the diverse and noteworthy places to see the wildflowers. For information http://www.cbwnps.org/