Pass through Ellensburg and the first major aquatic view comes in the form of the mighty Columbia River gouging its way south. Stop on the other side for views from a ridge topped with wild horse sculptures running in a blur of steel and bronze. Turn north on Highway 28 toward the small towns of Quincy and Crescent Bar, with their riverside access. Or head farther east on Interstate 90 to Moses Lake. The lake here sprawls south of I-90 and north alongside the town.
Highway 17 leads north from here to the mineral-rich Soap Lake. The tiny town is home to a couple of inns, a resort and spa dedicated to what many consider to be healing waters, a community theater and several bars and pubs. Follow the lake until it disappears from view, then turn northeast on Highway 2 until you come to Banks Lake and Coulee City, where Wild West gamblers have given way to fishers looking to hook walleyes. Don’t miss nearby Dry Falls, remnants of what was once the largest waterfall known to have existed on earth.
Highway 155 skirts the eastern edge of the lake here to Electric City below the Grand Coulee Dam. Alternately, slide along Highway 17 to Bridgeport, set along Rufus Woods Lake, and Brewster. The little town north of Lake Chelan sits at the confluence of the Okanogan and Columbia rivers, near the shores of Lake Pateros.
Continue north on Highway 97 to reach Conconully, which sits between a lake and reservoir—and is also home to the annual January outhouse races.
—Julie H. Case