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Off The Beaten Path in the Pacific Northwest

Having spent the entire summer volunteering for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Visitor Center at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River, just east of its confluence with the mighty Columbia, I took the opportunity during my free time to go exploring throughout the backwoods of the Pacific Northwest. I kept my trusty camera busy as I went. During these excursions I stumbled upon a number of very interesting and unusual sights, which I thought were well worth sharing.




1. Nikkei Internment Memorial Center, New Denver…

Much as the Manzanar and Minidoka National Historic Sites in California and Idaho tell the heartbreaking story of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, this center is a reminder of the forced removal of 22,000 Japanese-Canadians from our neighbor’s West Coast. About

12,000 of these unfortunate victims of a war they had no part in creating were sent to remote internment camps, including one at this site in southern British Columbia.


2. S.S. Moyie, Kaslo…

This handsome Victorian sternwheeler is the oldest intact passenger steam vessel of its type in the world. Her primarily components and machinery were built in Toronto, shipped west via the Canadian Pacific Railway, and assembled in Vancouver. Launched in 1898, the Moyie carried passengers and freight on Kootenay Lake for 59 years before being retired in 1957. In danger of subsequently being scrapped, she was rescued by the citizens of Kaslo and today is a Canadian National Historic Site.




3. Heart of the Monster, Nez Perce National Historical Park, East Kamiah…

This rock mound of volcanic origin is a sacred site to the Nez Perce, whose creation legend tells that their tribe originated from the heart of a monster. The creature, which had been swallowing all the native animals, was slain by Coyote, and its parts scattered to the winds, creating different tribes wherever the pieces landed. It’s an extraordinarily charming story, which is told in full on site.


4. High Railroad Trestle over Lawyers Canyon, Cottonwood…

In order to cross several Camas Prairie Gorges, a series of high railroad bridges was built in 1908. Most were of timber construction, but this one was metal, 1500 feet long and 296 feet high. The trestle was in continuous service until the line was abandoned in 2000.



5. Ancient Leaf Fossils at Clarno Unit, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument…

One of my favorite National Monuments (in my humble opinion, it should be a National Park) is spread out on three remote but awe-inspiring sites in Eastern Oregon, of which Clarno is the most remote. A short hike here brings the visitor to such well-preserved fossils as the one shown in the photo, as well as a natural stone arch. The Sheep Rock Unit has one of the best visitor centers in the entire National Park Service.


6. Oregon Film Museum/Old Clatsop County Jail, Astoria…

Talk about adaptive uses for historic buildings! As is evident from the photo, this building behind the courthouse served as the Clatsop County Jail from 1914 to 1976, but now houses a museum dedicated to moviemaking in the Beaver State. A movie called The Goonies was filmed in Astoria in 1985, and visitors can learn all about it here in former jail cells.


7. Elk Lake Guard Station, Deschutes National Forest…

In the formative years of our National Forest Service, forest guards were posted at stations like this one to assist the agency’s rangers. Although built in 1929, no funds were available to man it during the early 1930s due to the Great Depression. In 1997, the Forest Service decided to restore this historic station, which now serves as a visitor information center on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway.


8. Wing Hong Hai Company Building, Last Survivor of Historic Chinatown, The Dalles…

Chinese first arrived in The Dalles during the 1850s, and the construction of the railroad brought some 600 Chinese laborers to town. By 1890, most of the Chinese businesses and homes were located on the block where this building now stands virtually alone. From 1894 to 1913 it housed the Wing Hong Hai Company Chinese Mercantile Store, which also featured a laundry and wash house. The building was placed on the list of the state’s Ten Most Endangered Places in 2013.




9. The Codger Pole, Colfax…

Dedicated in 1991, this one-of-a-kind, 65-foot “totem” commemorates a 1988 football contest between aging members of the Colfax and St. John High School teams that originally met in biting cold on a snow and ice-covered field 50 years earlier, to conclude the 1938 season. Participants in the “reunion” game had their faces and names captured in wood by carver Jonathan LaBenne, and the results are available for all to see in a small downtown park right off Main Street (U.S. 195).


10. Historic Train Depot, Dayton…

This, the oldest remaining depot in the state, today houses a very nice museum of railroad memorabilia in this picturesque southeastern Washington community. Built originally by another line in 1881 on a site across the Touchet River, the building was acquired in 1889 by the Union Pacific, which moved it to its present site using horses, roller logs and winch.


11. Storefront Remains, Anatone…

What can I say about this one? Anatone is a tiny village of no apparent significance in extreme southeastern Washington. Although a number of homes are still occupied nearby, what is left of the central “business” area along WA Route 129 speaks of better times, but is still quite photogenic in its current state of dilapidation.


12. Teapot Dome Service Station, Zillah…

Built to capitalize on the national attention paid to the notorious Teapot Dome scandal, which embroiled the Warren G. Harding administration in controversy over the leasing of naval petroleum reserves in Wyoming to political cronies, this unusual gas station actually operated until 2004. Moved to First Avenue on the north end of town in 2012, it now serves as the centerpiece of a rest and visitor information area. Modern restrooms are happily now available, so tourists need no longer use the original “two-holer” outhouse.