When you visit Douglas County, whether you’re from North Central Washington or not, you’ll quickly see that this is a part of the country that is proud of its history. Douglas County is located in the eastern portion of the region and features a number of small towns, some dramatic landscape, and some very popular attractions. Douglas County also features some great museums.
Visiting these museums will give you an inside look at the lives of the settlers who first came to the area, the Native Americans who were already here, and a lot of the accomplishments of the people who have built it into what it is today.
Douglas County Museums
Douglas County Museum
The Douglas County Museum is located in the small town of Waterville, right on Highway 2. This is truly one of the more underrated museums in North Central Washington and it does a great job telling the story of the early settlement of the county.
Website: Douglas County Museum
Dry Falls Visitor Center
Dry Falls is one of the most dramatic scenic locations in the entire state of Washington. Perched right on its rim is the Dry Falls Visitor Center. When you visit there you will find out everything you would want to know about this amazing place. From how it was formed to how it has impacted the lives of the people who live near it, it’s all covered there.
Website: Dry Falls Visitor Center
Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center
There probably isn’t a more famous attraction in North Central Washington than Grand Coulee Dam. Some people visit to marvel at its size, some to view the laser light show, and some to learn about its history. The best way to do the latter is to take the time to visit the famous Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center.
Website: Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center
Okanogan County sits in the northernmost part of North Central Washington and is home to a number of great communities, attractions, and things to experience. You can visit an Old West themed town, the grave site of Chief Joseph, the largest hydroelectric producing dam in the nation, and even visit a ghost town without leaving the county.
If you love history, Okanogan County can help you out there too. Here is a brief look at the museums you can experience when you visit Okanogan County.
Okanogan County Museums
The Shafer Museum is located in Winthrop, Washington and is home to some of the best examples of historic machinery used in the early days of the region.
Website: Shafer Museum
Okanogan County Historical Museum
The Okanogan County Historical Museum is located on the north end of Okanogan and includes a great display of artifacts detailing the early days of the county.
Website: Okanogan County Historical Museum
Conconully is a very small community with a fascinating history. That history can be explored with a quick stop at the Conconully Museum.
Website: Conconully Museum
Colville Tribal Museum
The Colville Tribal Museum does a great job of telling the story of Native American history in North Central Washington.
Website: Colville Tribal Museum
Fort Okanogan State Park Interpretive Center
Fort Okanogan State Park is a day-use-only state park that features a great view of the confluence of the Okanogan and Columbia rivers. It also features an outstanding interpretive center with some very nice displays on both what life at the fort was like, as well as its impact on the area around it.
Website: Fort Okanogan State Park Interpretive Center
There’s an old western film out there called The Cariboo Trail. It was made in 1950 and stars Randolph Scott and George “Gabby” Hayes. The storyline of the film is two cattlemen head into British Columbia via the Cariboo Trail with the intent to raise cattle and try their hand at gold mining, but they find trouble instead.
If you drive north or south on Highway 97 near Okanogan, you drive right by a historical marker put up in a widening by the Okanogan Historical Society. It marks one part of the actual Cariboo Trail.
The Cariboo Trail closely followed the Okanogan River all the way to Lake Osoyoos. With an elevation gain of just 125 feet from where it meets the Columbia River to the lake, it made for a rather easy route to move cattle. Not that it was a completely easy job. Fording the river at several points was particularly challenging.
This route is also sometimes referred to as the Okanogan Trail. It gets its name as the Cariboo Trail for the fact that it ended in the Cariboo mining district of British Columbia.
The southern start of the Cariboo Trail varies from person to person with some saying it begins at the confluence of the Okanogan and Columbia rivers, some saying it starts in the Wenatchee area, some that it begins when it enters the Grand Coulee, and there is evidence that some considered themselves on the Cariboo Trail after they left the Wallula Gap near the present day Tri-Cities.
Whether it was miners heading into British Columbia or cattle being driven there to feed them, the Cariboo Trail was an important local route that helped establish settlement in the region.
Fort Okanogan was a significant outpost in the early days of settlement in the North Central Washington area. The structures are long gone but this historical marker and a nearby visitor center tell the story of this important fort that was located at the mouth of the Okanogan River, right where it flows into the Columbia River.
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