In musing about my wanderings in Washington State I can hardly help but think about the wide diversity of climate, geology, habitat and wildlife found here. I can think of at several areas that, in their natural state, are different from the rest of the state in at least two of these four major items. Less noticable, but still important, differences are even more abundant. I say 'natural state' because much of Washington has been changed extensively through farming and irrigation, bringing about areas of man-made diversity within a natural area. On this page I have pictures and comments that I think are typical of six of these areas. On later pages I will probably add others that are also different enough to be worth mention. Just offhand I can think of the Olympics, the ocean coast, the Kettle Range and Little Pend Oreille, the Pend Oreille and Selkirks, and possibly the Blue Mtns. and maybe the lower Columbia River.

Western Washington river valleys and estuaries

     A rainbow. When Noah came out of the ark, Jehovah put the rainbow in the cloud as a sign that he would never again bring ruin to all flesh by means of a deluge.
    At times this winter here in western Washington state we could have wondered if He had changed His mind, so it's comforting to have this reminder in it's fullness.
    This farmland in the Chehalis River valley near Elma is wet most of every winter but usually drys out in time to produce good crops of corn and hay in the summer.
    Areas such as this and the more extensive Skagit and Samish Flats in Skagit county are prime wintering areas for many migratory birds.

Puget Sound

     When the clouds do thin out, there is a sparkling freshness in Puget Sound like nowhere else. The morning this was taken there was still a light frost on everything but the sun was warming, the wind was calm and the wife and I truly enjoyed this brief stop at Deception Pass State Park. I was principally photographing the birds but I changed lens to capture this view of Deception Island. The bird on the rock is a Black Oystercatcher, a species not usually found in other areas of the state.

The Cascade Range

     I include the Cascade Range as one area on this page but it really has three distinct areas within, the North Cascades, the southern west slope and the southern east slope. The spine, or cascade crest, is fairly consistant from north to south, but the three areas are quite different from each other.
    The cascades have more than 100 peaks over 8000' high. Most of these are in the north cascades although the southern part of the range boasts the highest, Mt.Rainier, shown here.
    I have spent some time in the cascades over the years but sadly, now that I have the time, I no longer have the strength and endurance to explore them fully. However in many places short walks, like this 3 mile loop at Chinook Pass, allow me to continue to enjoy their beauty.

The Central Basin

     Most of the native shrub-steppe and grassland is gone now to farmland, much of that under irrigation. What's left for the most part exists in small areas between larger sections of farmed acreage. A few of the larger sections are in National Wildlife Refuges, but much of these are areas that couldn't be farmed anyway. As a result most of the native grasslands are gone and the small areas that remain are changed in many ways because of the close proximity of the agricultural areas. Fertilizers, pesticides, changing water tables, all play a part. one such change is the rapid growth of russian olive where none existed in the natural state. The russian olive now provides shelter and food for many birds and animals, some native some not.
    What to do or not to do has some government agencies working at odds with each other and at times even with themselves it seems. Removing the non-native growth won't bring back the native growth and deprives wildlife of anything at all, and yet that is what some are doing.
Rolling Hills

The Palouse

     An area of rolling hills, not steep but never flat, lies mostly in the east-central part of Washington state. Known for it's picturesque fields of cropland, it is almost entirely cultivated. Originally, the area was natural prairie grassland with riparian growth along streams in the lower areas. One source says that a little over one percent of that remains.
     I haven't spent much time in the Palouse but hope to do so this year. Besides the birds of the area, I would like to photograph some of it's scenic beauty. In doing so I hope to uncover some lesser known aspects of the region, as well as to view and see for myself the traditional viewpoints.
Old houses and hayfields

The Okanogan Highlands

     The Okanogan Highlands. To me it is the area in north-central Washington bounded by the Cascades on the west and the Kettle Range on the east. While much of the highlands are forested, it's the grasslands that I'm most drawn to. It's rather a harsh climate, bitterly cold in the winter and quite hot and dry in the summer. Even the areas such as pictured here at near 4000ft elevation suffer the summer heat. But because of that combination of high elevation, dry climate and open area it's quite different from other parts of Washington state.
     I find myself drawn here particularly in the spring and fall for the birds and dragonflies of the area.
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