Sunday, August 19, 2012

Washtucna: Not Dead Yet and The Columbia Plateau Trail

Washtucna has never been a big town. Its peak population was 339 in 1920 and at the last census count in 2010 it was at 208. Farm mechanization, cars and smooth paved highways, change in distribution, cheap gas, and an overall downward population trend has been tough on small rural towns across America. Commercial enterprises have not done well in Washtucna. Agriculture around the area is mostly dry land winter wheat and cattle grazing within the scab land areas swept of soil from the Missolula Floods. There is a small amount of irrigation mostly used to support cattle with feed. 

Lumber yard

Former auto dealer

Vacant store front

Vacant grocery

This grocery appears to have tried to make a more recent go of it. When I rode my bike through here in the early 1980s I was sorely disappointed that the store was not open as I was bit hungry and very hot and the next town is a ways away mount-st-helens-eruption-and-cold-beer.

More vacant store fronts

Post office boxes at an old gas station

The old bank

Washtucna did have a bank in recent years. Whitman Bank served the community and area up to 2011. Whitman Bank was closed down in 2011 by the FDIC and this branch will not be reopened by the new owners.  

Interior of bank

Though Washtucna no longer serves as a shopping destination it still is the community center for a large area. Its 26 miles to Ritzville and 32 to Connell with all other towns marked on the map within that radius being even smaller. There is a gas station at the north end of town next to Highway 26, a primary east-west route if one is heading to or from Pullman and WSU. And there is one tavern hanging on with a new name since my last visit.

There is one business hanging on

There is a new venture in town: The Columbia Plateau Trail State Park has a facility in town.

State Park office and shop

The State Park is a 130 mile long trail that runs from Cheney to Pasco and follows the former Spokane Portland and Seattle Railway. This old rail route right-of-way was acquired by the Sate Parks in 1991 and is being managed as a trail. The trail is still a bit rough, but it provides access through otherwise inaccessible areas and being a railroad grade avoids some steep hills via trestle and tunnel. Over time as improvements are made it will be a very tempting bike ride and Washtucna will be a nice stop on a hot day.

Section of Columbia Plateau Trail

Basset Park

Washtucna Pool


Sam Crawford said...

Those downtown sidewalks will be nicely reconstructed next summer, thanks to a state board on which I serve! We have a program specially designed to help small towns that are unable to raise any funds. The cost of doing projects like this is usually far greater than the town's entire annual public works budget.

Here's a link...

Dave Wenning said...

It has a school district and a website:
It's also a birding destination. Still, it's sad to see all the abandoned businesses.

Dan McShane said...

Sam: Thanks for the heads up on the sidewalk fix. I noted at another town on my latest venture had great sidewalks and wondered about grant funding. Was Lind part of this program?

Dave: At Basset Park there was an information board regarding birding. The mix of habitats as well as trees and water at the park attracts a lot of song birds. Early in the morning I had a great view of some falcons along the cliffs of the Palouse River Canyon.