Washington to Utah Scenic Drive

July 12, 2008

Driving through Snoqualmie Pass (on Interstate 90), a quick stop was made along the eastern shoreline of Keechelus Lake.

Keechelus Lake is part of the Columbia River basin, being the source of the Yakima River, which is tributary to the Columbia River. Although a natural lake, Keechelus Lake's capacity and discharge is controlled by Keechelus Dam, a 128 foot (39 m) high earthfill structure built in 1917.

The name Keechelus comes from an Indian term meaning "few fish".


Keechelus Lake

Following the highway, you will cross the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America, the Columbia River. It is named after the Columbia Rediviva, the first ship from the western world known to have traveled up the river.

It stretches from British Columbia through Washington state, forming much of the border between Washington and Oregon before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. The river is 1,243 miles (2,000 km) long.


Columbia River - Washington and Oregon border

Eventually you will pass the State of Idaho before reaching the State of Utah.

The name "Utah" is derived from the Ute Indian language, meaning "people of the mountains."

Utah - Rest Area

An interesting stop along the way is Wilson Arch, a natural sandstone arch in southeastern Utah along U.S. Route 191 24 miles south of Moab.

It has a span of 91 feet and height of 46 feet. It is visible from the road to the east where there are turnouts with interpretive signs.


Wilson Arch

Wilson Arch was named after Joe Wilson, a local pioneer who had a cabin nearby in Dry Valley. This formation is known as Entrada Sandstone.


Local fauna

Over time superficial cracks, joints, and folds of these layers were saturated with water. Ice formed in the fissures, melted under extreme desert heat, and winds cleaned out the loose particles. A series of free-standing fins remained.


Top: View from the top of Wilson Arch

Wind and water attacked these fins until, in some, cementing material gave way and chunks of rock tumbled out. Many damaged fins collapsed like the one to the right of Wilson Arch. Others, with the right degree of hardness survived despite their missing middles like Wilson Arch


Driving distance from Vancouver: 2029 km (1260 mi)