Lake Lewis Isles

The crests of several hills south of the Tri-Cities rose above maximum flood level (~1,200 feet) during Ice Age flooding, making them islands in temporary Lake Lewis (Figure 1). Only the very tops of Badger and Candy Mountain poked out above the temporary lake. Other temporary islands included Red Mountain and Goose Hill.  Icebergs floating in Lake Lewis ended up getting pushed to the margins of the Pasco Basin and the calmer waters around these islands.  The relatively calm water of Lake Lewis also allowed fine-textured sediment, mixed with the floodwater, to settle out of suspension and be deposited over much of the basin during flooding.  This sediment is partly responsible for producing some excellent wines, including those from the area around Red Mountain.

Best Roadside Observation Points:

  1. Along State Route, SR 240 near mile posts 24-26, and along SR 224 and Interstate, I-82, in Richland and Kennewick, Washington.
  2. Along I-182 near Road 68 in Pasco, Washington.

Lake Lewis Isles Trails: Off-road trails ascend Badger Mountain, Red Mountain and Goose Hill, located south and west of Richland, Washington.  These and two other neighboring hills were mere islands that poked out above Lake Lewis when floodwaters backed up to over 1,200 feet in elevation behind Wallula Gap (Figure 1).

Badger Mountain Trails: Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve is owned and operated by Benton County of Washington State.  It was created as the result of a grassroots campaign led by the Friends of Badger Mountain to preserve the mountain as public open space.  The preserve is now home to five trails, accessed via two different trailheads, one at Trailhead Park, and one off Dallas Road (Figure 2).
Trailhead Park Location: N 46.238404°; W 119.306286°, parking lot of Trailhead Park located at 525 Queensgate Dr., Richland, Washington.  To access this trailhead take Exit 3A (Queensgate Drive South) off Interstate I-182 south of Richland, Washington.  Proceed 0.5 miles and turn left (east) onto Keene Road.  Proceed 0.6 miles east to Shockley Road (near Bethel Church) and turn right.  Follow Shockley Road to the end, where you turn left on Queensgate Drive, and go up the hill to the stop sign, where you turn right on to White Bluffs St. and then turn left into the parking lot.
Trail Length / Difficulty:  From this trailhead hikers have their choice of three trails – Canyon Trail (1.3 miles / Moderate), Sagebrush Trail (0.6 miles / Easy to Moderate), or Badger Flats Trail (0.4 miles / Easy).

Skyline Trail: Dallas Road Trailhead location N 46.242209°; W 119.342810°.  To access this trailhead, take Exit 3B (Queensgate Drive North) off Interstate I-182 south of Richland, Washington.  Proceed 0.2 miles and turn left (south) on to Duportail Street.  Proceed approximately 0.7 miles and turn right (west) on to Keene Road.  Proceed another 0.6 miles and turn left on Kennedy Road.  Stay on Kennedy Road for 0.6 miles and turn left (south) onto Dallas Road. Follow Dallas Road for 1.2 miles, going under the I-182 overpass and continuing to the top of hill, then turn left onto a gravel road that takes you to the trailhead.
Trail Length / Difficulty:  From here hikers have their choice of the Skyline Trail (2.9 miles / Moderate), or Southside Trail (2.5 miles / Easy).  Skyline Trail offers spectacular views of the Lake Lewis Isles.
Warning:  Outside of Trailhead Park there is no shade or portable water.
Skyline Trail Description (after The trail winds and climbs gradually through virgin sagebrush. As you reach the top of the sagebrush field, you’ll cross over a dirt road that provides vehicles access to the communication towers on top of Badger Mountain.  Across the road, you’ll get spectacular views of Candy Mountain and Red Mountain to the west, two of the Lake Lewis Isles.  You will also get great views of the lower Yakima Valley, Richland, West Richland and the Hanford Site (a.k.a. Hanford Nuclear Reservation).  
Following a few switchbacks, you’ll continue climbing up the ridge and pass a granitic marker where geologists believe temporary Lake Lewis reached its maximum elevation, submerging the Tri-Cities with over 800 feet of water (Figure 1).  Here you have a great view of Rattlesnake Mountain, the Hanford Site, and the Hanford Reach National Monument.  
Continuing up the mountain, you’ll hike through desert grasses, with plentiful wildflowers in early spring.  As you reach the spine of the ridge, you’ll again cross the dirt access road. At this point you have a view of the Horse Heaven Hills and Badger Canyon and as well as the lower Yakima Valley.  
The trail winds around the south or “back” side of Badger Mountain, passing a couple of communication towers, and then splits.  Follow the left fork.  The right fork will take you back down to Trailhead Park via the Sagebrush Trail.
 Follow the trail up to the tower and enjoy the view!  On a clear day, you can see the Blue Mountains to the east along with the Tri-Cities, Columbia and Yakima Rivers, Hanford and Badger Canyon.  On a clear day, you may get a glimpse of Mt. Adams, over 100 miles to the west.
You can either retrace your steps or follow the dirt road back to where the upper trail crosses and then take the trail back down.

Material taken in part from On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods: A geological field guide to the Mid-Columbia, by Bruce Bjornstad, 2006,  Keokee Books, Sandpoint, Idaho, and the website.

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