On Sunday, April 22, 2012, we celebrated Earth Day by driving across a beautiful section of our planet, along Washington State Route 174.
State route No. 174:
A state highway to be known as state route number 174 is established as follows:
Beginning at a junction with state route number 17 east of Bridgeport, thence easterly to the boundary of the federal reservation at Grand Coulee dam; also
Beginning at a junction with state route number 155 at Grand Coulee, thence southeasterly to a junction with state route number 21 in the vicinity north of Wilbur; also
A spur beginning at a junction with state route number 174 in the vicinity of the boundary of the federal reservation at the Grand Coulee dam and extending to Crown Point.
So here we begin, well up the hill from Bridgeport at Leahy. SR 174 branches off from SR 17.
We head across fields and scrubland, atop the Columbia Plateau. Rolling hills and erratic boulders as far as the eye can see. After almost twenty miles, the highway dips into Wallace Canyon and we can suddenly see the Columbia River, a.k.a. Lake Roosevelt, in the distance below us. At this point, the highway enters the "federal reservation" of Grand Coulee Dam. According to the state code, the highway is discontinuous for the next bit, but WSDOT maintains it all. Nevertheless, here's a photo at the boundary.
Down the hill in the city of Grand Coulee, situated between Lake Roosevelt and Banks Lake, SR 174 junctions with SR 155. Look at all dem power lines! Is there a dam around here or something?
But we soon leave all that behind. Highway 174 climbs eastward along the hillside above Lake Roosevelt, then finds actual trees in Seaton Canyon before it pops out once more atop the plateau. We then angle southeast, straight for the town of Wilbur. A mile before we get there, however, SR 174 reaches its end at a junction with SR 21.
But no, it's not the end!
Back north of Grand Coulee, we start upon the Crown Point spur of SR 174. The code describes a junction between the main route and the spur near the "federal reservation" boundary. Since the actual junction is within the federal reservation, but the code doesn't consider the highway there part of the state route, here's a photo from where the spur emerges from the federal property, just about where it crosses Fiddle Creek.
Less than a mile later, we reach Crown Point State Park, which isn't much more than a gravel parking lot and the viewpoint structure you see above. This is the end of SR 174. Get out and have a view! Grand Coulee Dam to the south and the Columbia River flowing away to the north.
Could there possibly be a better way to celebrate Earth Day than a frivolous drive across the state, capped off with a glorious view of the second largest concrete structure on the planet? Nah. That sound like the best.