Hiking & Biking
The geology of the Tri-Cities area is in stark contrast to other parts of Washington State, with a basalt and lava landscape carved by the great Ice Age Floods.
Surrounding ridgelines tell tales of the unique geology and cataclysmic forces that shaped the Columbia Basin. Treeless mountains (Badger Mountain, Rattlesnake Mountain, Red Mountain) rise from the earth-great basalt remnants of the Ice Age floods which shaped the community and are continuing to have a dramatic impact on the people, lifestyle and economy of the region.
574 acres on Badger Mountain have been set aside to safeguard one of the last remaining shrub-steppe habitats bordering the southwestern edge of the Tri-Cities.
The Friends of Badger Mountain acquired this land as open space to protect the ridgeline's beauty before it was permanently marred by the irreversible pressures of housing and commercial construction. The Preserve is open to the public for muscle-powered use only. And it has quickly become one of the most popular Tri-Cities, Washington hiking trails. No motorized vehicles are allowed in the Preserve or on its trails. Hikers gain about 800 feet in elevation from base to summit; and since sagebrush is the tallest plant, a hike to the top affords spectacular vistas of the Tri-Cities and Yakima and Columbia River valleys. New hiking trails have been established, and revegetation and restoration of several areas have been completed. Everywhere, black and rust-colored Basalt rocks are visible; left there by ancient Ice Age Floods. Sun-loving plants thrive in the colorful earth. And spring wildflowers paint the landscape in vibrant blues, yellows, whites and oranges.
The Tri-Cities' mountain ridgeline is part of the Olympic-Wallowa lineament, extending from the Olympic Peninsula in Washington to the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon. The Ice Age Floods' impact is also evident in the sediment layers at White Bluffs, in the unique vegetation of the shrub steppe, and in Columbia River gravel bars.
The Wallula Gap (near Pasco) is one of the most significant natural features in the story of the Ice Age Floods. All the floodwaters from glacial Lake Missoula after having spread out over hundreds of miles of the Channeled Scabland were funneled through this single narrow opening only a few miles wide. During Ice-Age Floods more water entered the Gap than could pass through, so the water backed up. Behind the bottleneck, floodwater rose to an elevation of 1250 feet, almost a thousand feet above present river level! This forced floodwaters up the Yakima and Walla Walla river valleys, submerging Yakima and Walla Walla under hundreds of feet of water and backwater rose to almost a thousand feet over Richland.
The Ice Age Floods are a remarkable part of the Tri-Cities' natural heritage and TRI-CITIES is supporting efforts by the National Park Service to create an Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail. View an Ice Age Floods Map and start planning a visit to one of the most enjoyable Washington hiking trails and check out other great opportunities for recreation in the area.