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Hanford Reach National Monument

 

Designated by President Clinton as a National Monument in June 2000, The Hanford Reach National Monument is the only free flowing, non tidal stretch of the Columbia River remaining in the United States and traces a path between shifting sand dunes and towering cliffs. Just north of Richland, a 51-mile stretch of unbridled river flows through a spectacular landscape of white bluffs, dunes and desert plateaus. Along with the river, rare birds and animals find refuge in this protected tract of wilderness. View American white pelicans, osprey, bald eagles, black-crowned night herons, great egrets, cormorants, Caspian terns, blue heron, prairie falcons, red-tailed hawks, elk, mule deer, coyote, river otter and many other spectacular animals which inhabit this natural sanctuary. A large elk herd hides in the canyons, and incredibly, porcupines are a common sight. Rare plants defy the drought, wind and heat. Beautiful spring wildflower displays delight the visitors who venture into the field. Approximately 238 species of birds have been documented on or near the Monument, 36 of which are common and 40 are accidental visitors. The Reach provides habitat for year-round residents, migratory species that breed on the site, winter residents, and migrants that are passing through to or from breeding grounds. 

Consequence of World War II

As the rest of the Columbia River and eastern Washington's arid shrub steppe ecosystem gave way to development, The Reach and surrounding land survived as an unexpected benefit of security requirements of World War II's Manhattan Project. In fact, The Reach shelters the largest remaining tract of sagebrush grassland in the country. In 1967, the then U.S. Atomic Energy Commission set aside 120 square miles of relatively pristine shrub-steppe on the Hanford Site to preserve portions of the sage covered grassland that once covered the American West. Now known as the Fitzner/Eberhardt Arid Lands Ecology (ALE) Reserve, this portion hosts a staggering diversity of plant life which changes with the elevation. Including, bitterbrush, rabbitbrush, hopsage, Sandberg's bluegrass, dropseed, squirrel-tail grass, bluebunch wheatgrass, rosy balsamroot, and a variety of flowering forbs.  

The Reach encompasses the river, shoreline, Hanford Dunes, and ALE Reserve; and is a truly unique asset. It is a biological treasure, encompassing important riparian, aquatic, and upland shrub-steppe habitats that are rare or in decline in other areas. Indeed, it is an archaeologically diverse landscape encompassing an array of scientific and historic objects, including irreplaceable natural and historic legacies arising from the Manhattan Project. 

It is best to view The Reach via a commercial tour, since it is in a federally protected area where vehicle access is limited.