A green oasis
As you drive down Highway 12 through the dune-colored fields near Waitsburg and Dayton, you’ll see a stand of green up ahead. It’s not a mirage; it’s the park.
A lush oasis in an arid landscape, Lewis and Clark Trail comprises 36 green acres and has 1,333 feet of freshwater shoreline.
Set up your tent or RV, or rent one of two teepees (reservable May 15 to Sept. 15, first-come-first-served the rest of the season), and prepare to relax. Amble down shaded trails for a delicious wade or dip in the eddies along the Touchet. The river makes for a gentle float, and inner-tubers can go all day. Some even put in at Dayton 5 miles east and float downstream to the park.
Identify long-needled ponderosa pine, alder, maple and cottonwood trees, and do some birdwatching for common mergansers, red-tailed hawks and orange-crowned warblers, among others. Or catch a few fish for your evening meal; the river is known for superb rainbow trout fishing.
Small town charm
This park feels like an off-the-beaten-track experience, but in fact it’s a 10-minute drive from the historic towns of Dayton and Waitsburg, which both host community events in spring, summer and fall. If your camp coffee isn’t cutting it, both towns have coffee houses. Dayton also boasts a historic theater with a happening schedule. A 30-minute drive gets you to the larger city of Walla Walla, which has supplies, services and attractions. Local wineries dot this area known as prime Washington wine country.
The park is located within five minutes of a winery and a goat dairy farm/artisanal fromagerie that holds cheese-making workshops and tours. At Lewis and Clark Trail State Park, there is no reason not to pair a handcrafted Roquefort and Cab with grilled burgers in your campsite.
Whether you're taking a quick stop or a longer retreat, you will leave well-fed and refreshed to continue your odyssey.
Park information: https://parks.state.wa.us/539/Lewis-Clark-Trail