Outdoors

Love a ghost story? This road tour will feature historic railroad towns in Eastern Washington

A Tri-Cities hiking and fitness group has organized an all-day road trip to visit the old railroad tunnels in Devil’s Canyon and five historic small railroad towns, including Kahlotus.
A Tri-Cities hiking and fitness group has organized an all-day road trip to visit the old railroad tunnels in Devil’s Canyon and five historic small railroad towns, including Kahlotus.

If you like ghosts, then maybe you will enjoy the thrills of going on a special road tour of the ghost towns of Eastern Washington.

The local hiking and fitness group, Fun, Fit and Over Fifty, has organized an all-day road trip to visit the old railroad tunnels in Devil’s Canyon and five historic small railroad towns on June 28.

Trip organizer Owen Kramer said, “Each stop visits the surviving remains of a small town that survived the boom construction times between the 1880s and the peak railroad mileage of the 1920s.”

“The towns are much smaller now,” he said. “Some are without any railroads at all. All but one has survived and adapted to the age of internal combustion engines, mechanization and the modern road infrastructure.”

SHi_j0245(11).JPG
Herald file photo The quiet town of Kahlotus in north Franklin County. Tri-City Herald

Kahlotus, at the peak of the boom construction times in the 1880s boasted 200 dance hall girls and 20 bars. It was first organized by German immigrants and railroad workers around 1880.

One of the first pioneer families, Hans Harder, first platted the town in 1902 under the name “Hardersburg.”

The town was later renamed Kahlotus, a Native American word meaning “hole in the ground,” although it is also possible that it is named for a Palouse tribal chief and signer of the Yakima Treaty of 1855, with spellings, including Kohlotus, Quillatose (by future governor Isaac Stevens), Qalatos, and Kahlatoose.

GettyImages-505554289.jpg
An old-fashioned grain elevator in Eastern Washington state. Getty Images

Hooper was named for its founder, Albert J. Hooper, in 1883.

The town boundaries actually straddle two counties, Adams and Whitman. This made for interesting times, for Hooper’s saloons were put on wheels and moved from one side of the county line to the other, depending on which county allowed beer sales.

As of 2007, there are 16 homes, and the population was 21.

Winona was once the largest town in Whitman County before it burned down twice and blew up once. It is a real ghost town.

Washtucna still has some lovely old homes, one of which is preserved as the Palouse Falls Bed & Breakfast, along with a classic small-town church and a museum.

LaCrosse, located in southwest Whitman County, was created at the junction of two railroads in 1888.

The first building constructed was a section house, then a store, and then a small town. It has a beautifully refurbished 1910 Sears kit home.

SHi_j0254(11).JPG
Photos by Richard Dickin | rdickin@tricityherald.com Lakeview Cemetery sits on a hill overlooking Kahlotus. The city’s population has hovered between 150 and 300 people over the years. Tri-City Herald File

The June 28 road trip is open to the public. It starts at the Richland Community Center parking lot at 7:30 a.m. for carpooling.

The trip is 234 miles round-trip, with an anticipated return time of 5 p.m.

There is a gas reimbursement charge of $18 for each rider paid to your driver.

The weather forecast shows that it is likely to be warm and dry, so wear light clothing, comfortable shoes and bring your sunscreen and sunglasses.

Local residents will be available to provide short lectures and accompany the walking tours in Washtucna, Hooper and LaCrosse. Lunch will be available in LaCrosse.

This is a great opportunity to learn about the history of Eastern Washington and take photographs.

To sign up, contact Owen Kramer 509-438-2879 or by email at owen_s_kramer@meton.net For more information visit www.ffofc.org

Paul Krupin is an avid local outdoor enthusiast and a member of the Intermountain Alpine Club (www.imacnw.org). He can be reached at pjkrupin@gmail.com.
  Comments