Highway 97 is the major north-south route through North Central Washington. It’s also one of the major highways in the entire state too. It drives through and past a lot of important features in the region. We use it all the time but how much do we know about it?
Here are five fun facts about Highway 97.
How Long Is It?
U.S. Route 97 is 322 miles long from where it enters the State of Washington on the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge across the Columbia River at Maryhill to the Canadian border where it leaves the state near Oroville.
But How Long Is It In Our Region?
Highway 97 enters North Central Washington at a location east of Cle Elum that is known locally as Lauderdale. It then travels nearly 187 miles and leaves the region at the Canadian border.
From 4 Comes 1
Four early highways made up the route through Washington that is now known as U.S. 97: State Road 2, State Road 3, State Road 8, and State Road 10. Each of those were so designated in 1923.
Highway 97 and the Columbia River
U.S. 97 crosses the Columbia River three times during its travels through the State of Washington. First at the Oregon border, then on the north end of Wenatchee on the Odabashian Bridge where it runs concurrently with U.S. 2, and finally on the Beebe Bridge just east of Chelan.
Move That Highway!
U.S. 97 once ran between Wenatchee and Chelan on the Chelan County side of the river. In 1987, the route number was moved to the highway on the Douglas County side of the river and the Chelan County section was renamed U.S. 97 A. The “A” stands for Alternate.
Riverside, Washington is a small town in Okanogan County, located right along both Highway 97 and the Okanogan River. It’s primarily an agricultural based community with one small block of businesses, a nice little park, and some surrounding homes. Anyone loving getting off the main road and getting a look at an example of what’s left of real small town America should take the few minutes it takes to experience Riverside.
The entire area that Riverside takes up is just under a full square mile. In town is a small grocery store that years ago was an true Old West saloon. There’s also a locally famous retail establishment there known as Detro’s Western Store. This cute little historic store is home to a fine selection of everything you could hope to find in a western store. There’s a fine selection of ropes, western apparel, cowboy hats, Old West style toys, and of course cowboy boots. If you have kids, take a minute to read the historic marker across the street while the little ones play in the park.
Exploring North Central Washington’s small towns is a great way to learn more about the region, have a fun time, and come away having visited somewhere you may have never been to before. It’s truly a worthwhile experience.
The Beebe Bridge carries US Highway 97 over the Columbia River just east of Chelan. Daroga State Park is just south of the bridge a few miles and those driving across it to the north can turn onto Highway 150 and go up the hill to Chelan or continue on Highway 97 to Wells Dam, Pateros, Brewster, Okanogan, and Canada. Motorists can also use this bridge when traveling from the south towards the North Cascades Highway.
From a recent trip across Old Blewett Highway. This is a great little diversion to take if you have the time while crossing Blewett Pass. It goes over the mountains at a higher altitude and offers some amazing views of the surrounding forest. The entire trip is about 11 miles or so, but the going is a lot slower than down on the new highway.
Give it a shot if you have the time!