On Friday, July 24, 2009, we drove the length of Washington State Route 24, from Yakima to Othello, crossing the fastest-flowing stretch of the Columbia River in Washington . . . by bridge, thankfully.
State route No. 24:
A state highway to be known as state route number 24 is established as follows:
Beginning at a junction with state route number 82 at Yakima, thence easterly and northerly via Cold Creek and Vernita to a junction with state route number 26 in the vicinity of Othello.
Highway 24 begins at I-82 at the eastern edge of Yakima. Note the small sign that says "24 Begins."
We then proceed gradually uphill through the farmlands of Moxee Valley. At a certain point, the valley narrows and we start back down in the Black Rock Valley. Don't get too attached, however, for we're just about to leave that valley when we come to the junction with SR 241, which will take you quite a ways south to Sunnyside.
After crossing Yakima Ridge and Cold Creek, we arrive at a stop sign at the junction with SR 240. The old state highway used to go straight here, eastward all the way to a ferry crossing on the Columbia River at the small town of Hanford. You might recognize that town's name, for that's the name the federal government gave to the huge swath of land they confiscated and gated so they could build that wonderful nuclear bomb. Hey, at least they succeeded, which is pretty remarkable for the government. . . In any case, note the gate straight ahead with the guard station. Don't go that way. Turn left.
So, having turned north, Highway 24 winds down to the Columbia River at a place called Vernita, where there once was a ferry, but now has a bridge. Thanks to the feds taking over this stretch of the river and the land around it, there are no dams here. Thus, the river flows the old-fashioned way, which is swiftly and in a fairly narrow channel -- only a 1/4 mile wide instead of the 1.5-mile wide river/lake that we're used to seeing. Just across the Vernita Bridge we hit SR 243, which you'll find if you keep driving straight. You must turn right to stay on Highway 24.
After a quiet drive through the Wahluke Wildlife Area (the northern reaches of the federal government's Hanford land grab), with straight stretches up to 18 miles in length, we enter the farmlands of the Columbia Plateau and arrive at the end of Highway 24, at its junction with SR 26 in Othello. Actually, there's a sign under Highway 26 that says "24 Ends," but 24 is supposed to end with a junction with SR 26, and that's not one. The real end, if you ask me, is up that side road to the right where you get the stop sign and the two roads actually touch each other. I drove it both ways, just to be on the safe side.
And so our drive of Highway 24 is at an end. Another lonely highway. But at least it's one of the few two-lane highways in Washington to have a rest area -- at Vernita.