Cowiche Canyon , Part 3

Last week, Bill and I returned to Cowiche Canyon for our last visit of 2022. We signed up for a guided autumn-color and plant-info hike. Our guide, from the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy, informed us that the usual intensity and amount of autumn color would not be present for this hike due to extended heat and drought in this part of the Canyon – higher elevation than most other trails. And he was correct. However, except for one disappointment that had nothing to do with autumn color, what we saw was glorious.

Our hike started out on the Wildflower Trail.

Penstemon richardsonii, Cutleaf Penstemon

Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus, Green rabbit-brush

Fencing to keep deer/antelope away from rare plants and fragile landscape.

A remnant of old ranching days.

Near this area, the University of Washington scientists and CCC volunteers are trying to introduce a rare buckwheat, Eriogonum codium, that grows only in the Hanford Reach area of Washington state. The plantings from 2020 failed to grow, and to date the 2021 crop is not showing much success. While these results are disappointing, the work will continue in the hope that this plant will settle in and eventually develop a thriving population.

Bluebunch wheatgrass and blue sky, and a feeling of being at the top of the world.

Elevation about 2,400 feet, looking down into the valley. A very chilly wind followed us down the trail.

Down the mountain, nearing Cowiche Creek, willows and autumn color thrive.

I am in awe of the intense beauty of this harsh landscape. With nothing to protect its inhabitants from wind, intense heat and freezing temperatures, rare plants and a few animals have adapted to these conditions and made a home where few others could survive. Resilient, sturdy, and surprisingly fragile – the tenacity of life is on full display in this remarkable land.

To learn more about the Cowiche Canyon, visit

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