North of the Oregon/Washington border, several towns cluster around the Columbia River. As you head towards Spokane, you’ll pass through two of them, Pasco & Kennewick.
I felt the need to drive around and explore these two towns, but as I did, the urge quickly went away. Maybe it was because it was Sunday afternoon, but I developed a sense that there wasn’t much happening in these two cities. The most impressive sights, it appeared, were the two bridges that span the Columbia, connecting the towns. So, that’s what I photographed.
One of the bridges is steel, which carries US 395 (so you’ll definitely cross this one)…
… and the other is a cable-stayed suspension bridge, also known as the Ed Hendler Bridge. This bridge is to the east of the steel bridge, and carries WA Rte. 397.
So why do the towns of Pasco, Kennewick, and nearby Richland, even exist? They’re all home to the people who work at the nearby Hanford Nuclear Reservation, home to the most polluted site in North America. Hanford is a former nuclear weapons plant, that now houses 53 million gallons of radioactive sludge, underground, in leaky tanks (just 7 miles from the Columbia River, no less!)
But wait, it gets worse.
Since 1989, the government has spent $4 Billion dollars (that’s with a capitol “B”, you’ll notice) to build a factory that will turn the sludge into radioactive glass. Not only has it not produced a single piece of glass, it isn’t even built yet. The completion date was originally set at 1999, now it’s 2019. That’s your tax dollars at work!
Note: This trip was first published in 2006. Much of the same area was covered in the Big Sky trip in 2014.