July 2022 – In the heart of Washington’s apple orchard country, where the Entiat River joins the Columbia River (about a half-hour from Chelan), there is a fabulous waterfront village called Entiat.
When we arrived with our RV, the salmon fishing season had just opened. We took an early morning walk on a path along the Columbia River and saw fishing boats trolling all over the place.
The mountains alongside the Columbia River are tall and barren. At their base, lush vegetation and fruit orchards grow easily, thanks to irrigation from the river.
Our favorite part of Entiat was Entiat City Park, an expansive grassy waterfront park full of towering shade trees and thin strips of sandy beach that are just big enough to provide soft footing for launching a kayak or wading in for a swim.
Entiat City Park is nestled on the banks of Lake Entiat which is a dammed up portion of the Columbia River. This park is a hub of activity in the summertime.
During our stay, temps got into the 90s and even hit 100 one day, but a cooling breeze blew off the water in the afternoons. (Yes, the lower elevations in Washington like Entiat, which sits at 800 feet, can hit 100 degrees or more!).
Lots of families brought blankets and beach chairs down to the water’s edge for the day, hung out under the trees and played in the water. One fellow brought four golden retrievers with him to run around in the huge grassy field and then chase a ball into the water. He took each dog for a ride on his paddleboard too. The dogs loved it, and one even insisted on repeat rides!
Paved paths meandered through the park and people rolled by slowly on their bikes, taking in the views as they pedaled.
Well, not everyone rode slowly. There were some speed demons out there!
The speediest folks were zooming around on the water in jetskis and high performance power boats.
Entiat City Park (website here) boasts not only beautiful picnic areas but a wonderful RV and tent campground as well. Happy campers were set up in tents surrounded by soft green grass with great views of the lake.
Life slows way down here, and it’s a great place for a midday snooze.
We met lots of extended family groups who come back here year after year to vacation all together. It’s pricey, but you get water and electricity (dump station on the way out) and for a little more money some sites have sewer hookups too. Best of all, you’re surrounded by beauty and are in the middle of a super family friendly place to play and relax.
As I mentioned in the last article about nearby Chelan, Washington, there are several waterfront city RV parks like this in the area, including Lakeshore RV Park in Chelan and Beebe Bridge Park just outside Chelan on the Columbia River.
The only caveat is that you must book way in advance. I talked to one woman whose husband was on the computer at 12:01 a.m. on January 1st when online reservations opened so he could snag the exact campsite they wanted plus two adjacent campsites for their extended family for three days in July.
At the confluence of the Columbia River and the Entiat River, there’s a bridge for the highway that runs along the river (US-97A). It has a walkway underneath leading to the banks of the Entiat River. We found a troll living down there!
As we walked alongside the mouth of the Entiat River we found some beautiful berries that were just beginning to ripen. A week later all the berries were blue. I’m not sure if they were edible, though! There were pretty pink flowers as well.
The Entiat River Road goes for 31 miles down the Entiat River Valley, and one day we drove most of its length, passing homes and a few small businesses along the way.
There are several campgrounds at the end of the road, and we visited Forest Creek Campground. The woodsy scenery and rushing Entiat River were gorgeous.
We had hoped we’d be able to camp in this dry camping Forest Service campground, but it looked a little tight for our 33′ toy hauler fifth wheel. The loops and sites are paved and a few folks were camping right on the river’s edge. What a spot!
Back at the mouth of the Entiat River, where it meets up with the Columbia River at the south end of Entiat City Park, we came across a towering rock hillside that was covered with numbers. Could this be the high school graduation years like we’d seen on a similar rock wall in Arco, Idaho, years ago?
A closer look revealed that it absolutely must be. We could see all kinds of high school years — 56, 71, 31, 32, 53, 40, 29… and 02 and 09!
A few days later we dropped in at the little white building at the far north end of Entiat City Park that had a huge “Museum” sign out front. It is open only on the weekends, and when we walked in it was quite busy. The hosts were chatting with some visitors about “old times” in Entiat, mentioning names and families that the visitors seemed to know well.
We returned a while later and the museum was quiet. One of the hosts, Al Shannon, introduced himself as a lifelong resident of Entiat and said he was helping out his granddaughter, Mandy, with her volunteer hosting duties that day.
I asked about the rock hill with the numbers on it and he said, “Yes, those were all painted by the graduating classes. I was class of 1956. Our number is off to the side.” Sure enough, when I looked at the photo later I saw the “56” in the upper left corner.
He said that he and two classmates had climbed up there to paint the number. There was a narrow shelf just big enough to stand a ladder on, and they managed to get the number painted without falling off the ladder. “I grew up working in the apple orchards, so I was used to being on a ladder!” He said with a grin.
The number painting tradition began with the class of 1923 right before graduation. Not to be outdone, within a few weeks the classes of 1921 and 1922 sent brave boys scampering up the sheer rock face to find places to paint their class numbers too.
The class of 1919 had only one graduate, a girl, and even though she celebrated her graduation with the class of 1920, someone painted a 19 up there for her.
Now, of course, the numbers are starting to overlap a century later! Al’s granddaughter, Mandy, was class of 2012. She said her class had only five boys and they haven’t yet taken the dare to go rock climbing with a can of paint and paintbrush. “We’ll get our number eventually!” she said.
The museum is a former house that another of the museum’s volunteer hosts grew up in. I believe her name is Lynn. So, if you don’t catch Mandy or her grandpa when you visit, you might learn some special things about the house itself from Lynn.
The apple orchard business goes way back in Entiat, and there’s a wonderful photo on the wall of a horse drawn apple cart from J. Ellis Slater Company, Distributors. The cart bears a sign announcing “National Apple Day.” Below it is the still popular slogan, “Eat an apple a day and keep the doctor away.”
There’s also a large painting of loggers and logging trucks in 1923. The black and white photo the painting was made from hangs on the wall next to it. The trucks are quite unusual looking. Al said it took quite a bit of maneuvering to get the huge logs onto those trucks.
Logging was a major industry in the early and middle 1900s, and there’s a photo in the museum of the mill camp that was at the far end of the Entiat River Road where the US Forest Service campgrounds are now. It was a bustling place in those days.
There were wildfire lookouts on the mountaintops, and if smoke ever appeared in the woods, word was quickly sent out and the mill workers would rush to trucks that were parked at the mill and go find the fire and put it out.
Fortunately, back in those days, there were many logging roads that went all through the woods, so the mill workers could get to the fires and put them out efficiently.
The mill camp workers’ lives and livelihoods depended on the forests and trees being healthy, so they removed diseased and fallen trees to prevent the forests from being full of kindling as many of our National Forests are today, now that the logging industry has been shut down.
We were fascinated as Al began to tell us Entiat’s unusual history. It has been a town on the move, in many ways, since its founding.
Entiat was settled by the Chinook Indians who named the area “Enteatqua,” meaing “rapid water.” By the late 1800s they had cattle pens and a few structures that served as a gathering and trading place. Ferries operated by settlers in Orondo and Wenatchee made it possible for people to cross the wide Columbia River and get to this spot.
In 1896 the tribe’s chief sold the site to settlers who then built the town of Entiat along with two sawmills and eventually brought in electricity by building a dam on the Entiat River.
In 1913 disaster struck when a fire destroyed the town. The resilient townsfolk relocated the town, however, and built three blocks of new business buildings, including warehouses to support the growing orchard industry. Train tracks and a depot came to town the following year in 1914.
Entiat thrived for several decades until the early 1960s when the Rocky Reach Dam was completed downstream on the Columbia River. This created Lake Entiat and flooded the town!
Most buildings in Entiat were razed before the water rose, however, and a new townsite was platted. But the business owners disagreed about where the new Main Street and center of town should be, and two separate areas were loosely developed. The intimate hometown Main Street feeling was lost and many business owners left Entiat all together.
Yet the remaining residents were resolute, and today the beautiful Entiat City Park is a fantastic recreational hub. Even though there isn’t a quaint historic Main Street district as there is in many other small towns, the City Park is where it’s at in Entiat and we loved hanging out in the shade of the trees by the water’s edge every afternoon!
If it weren’t for our friends, Sue and Roger, who live in the Chelan / Entiat area with their adorable pooch Annie (who has quite a crush on Buddy!), we never would have known about these two delightful waterfront towns or about the ferry to Stehekin in the North Cascades. We are very grateful to them for hosting us, showing us around and giving us the idea to make the trek to visit!
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More info about Entiat, Washington:
- Location of Entiat, Washington – Google Maps
- Entiat History
- Entiat Museum
- Entiat City Park
- Fox Creek Campground
- Locations of the campgrounds mentioned – Google Maps
- More RV Parks in the area
Other blog posts from the Pacific Northwest:
- Pomeroy, Washington – An Impromptu Sunday Stroll!
- Chelan, Washington – Summertime Fun and Great Music!
- Stehekin Ferry: Cruise to a Hidden Gem in the North Cascades!
- An Exuberant 4th of July in Othello, Washington!
- North Cascades, WA – From the coast to the peaks
- Northern Washinton – Magical Mountains & Trees in Sleeves
- Southern Washington – Falling Logs
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