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Kittitas County
Year-round attractions along Interstate 90
A lot of travelers go right through Kittitas County  1when they're driving east or west on Interstate 90 -- but there is a lot to stop and see if you plan to spend a little time in the area.

And the attractions are year-round. Even in winter -- some would say ESPECIALLY in winter -- Kittitas County has a lot to offer.

The county includes Cle Elum and the historic mining town of Roslyn as well as the new recreational development Suncadia Resort. Close to the resort you'll find a paradise for people who love the outdoors. Hiking, biking, swimming and other summer activities give way to snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter.

Further east is Ellensburg, home to Central Washington University with its 10,000 students. And the county stretches out to Vantage, the scenic crossing on the Columbia River that also happens to have one of the Northwest's most interesting geological museums.

Here are a few reasons why you might want to allow a little more time on your next trip across the mountains on Interstate 90 and stop and see the local attractions.

Cle Elum

You've seen the road signs to Cle Elum and you probably have stopped at MacDonald's or Safeway, popular places for travelers to stretch their legs and restock their snacks and supplies. But there's much more to this historic town if you take a few minutes to explore.

Cle Elum means "swift water" and its origins come from the Kittitas tribe, whose members resided here and relied on the nearby Yakima River. The city was incorporated in 1902 and it then grew into a prosperous community built around the local coal mining and the rail industry that moved the coal. The city also had a thriving lumber industry.

Today, if you stop in Cle Elum, you notice immediately the many historic homes and buildings -- including the 100-year-old bakery. In all, there are nearly 20 buildings in Cle Elum that are on the historical register.

More modern buildings -- 21st Century vintage -- can be found at Suncadia Resort, a mega development just a few minutes drive from Cle Elum. Full resort amenities and nightly inn-style rentals are available for short stays and luxury vacation homes are available for sale.

While in the Cle Elum area, be sure and check out Iron Horse State Park where you can stroll along a 2,200 foot 18-stop interpretive trail through the Milwaukee rail yard. The Carpenter House Museum also is a popular stop for tourists.


Just northwest of Cle Elum is the historic mining town of Roslyn. The town was founded in 1886 as a coal mining company town. During the 20th century, the town gradually transitioned away from coal, and today its economy is primarily based on forestry and tourism.

You may remember Roslyn got a lot of attention as the filming location for the popular TV series, Northern Exposure as well as some movies. The historic buildings were a big reason -- the town's history is well preserved and its downtown was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

The company store was the hub of life back in the day and it still stands at the corner of First Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Also be sure and check out the Brick Tavern, a saloon right out of the Old Northwest.


About a half hour east of the Cle Elum/Roslyn area is Ellensburg, home to Central Washington University. Some 10,000 students attend the university, but this is not your typical urban college town -- this is a town with a western culture that shines through with locals who wear jeans and cowboy hats. The vehicle of choice is a pickup truck.

Downtown Ellensburg has many historic buildings, many of which were constructed in the late 19th century. There are also a number of local art museums and galleries such as the Kittitas County Historical Museum, the Goodey Gallery and the Clymer Museum and Gallery.

The big event each year is the Ellensburg Rodeo, a tradition since 1923. Rodeo time -- every Labor Day Weekend -- is when the true western flavor of the town is most evident.

But just about any time of year, it's worth spending some time in Ellensburg, which has a host of college-related activities that also offer some cultural diversity for the local population and tourists.

Gingko Petrified Forest

Vantage is where Interstate 90 meets the Columbia River. Aside from the gorgeous river views, this place is home to the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park. The park is nearly 7500 acres including 27,000 feet of shoreline on the Wanapum Reservoir.

Petrified wood was discovered in the region in the early 1930s, which led to creation of the park as a national historic preserve. Altogether you can find more than 50 petrified plant and wood species at the site.

By the way, petrified wood is the result of tree or tree-like plants having completely turned to stone. These particular species date back to 15.5 million years ago when the region was lush and wet.

A museum at the Gingko site was opened back in 1938. An interpretive center was opened in 1963 and includes Native American petroglyphs found in the area along with the samples petrified wood.
PHOTOS: Downtown Roslyn
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